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Why Privileged Access Management is Essential for all Businesses

Privileged Access Management is principal to controlling access and delivers the required balance between system administrators and users. In contrast to Identity Management solutions, often confused with PAM, a Privileged Access Management solution offers a secure way to authorise, track, and protect all privileged accounts across all relevant systems, which ensures absolute control and visibility. That process allows the organisation to control users’ access and it is considered to be its most valuable asset. This process also proves the fact that PAM is one of the most important areas of risk management and data security in any enterprise.

In a time of digital transformation, business models are constantly changing which leads to more numerous and widespread privileged accounts. When they are not managed securely, businesses are exposed to the risks of abandoned accounts, unmanaged shared accounts. That is a favourable situation for criminals and hackers to steal and to use credentials for privileged accounts to gain access. To reduce this risk, implementing a cost effective PAM solution is essential.

The modern PAM implementations focus on implementing and maintaining a least privilege model and monitoring activity with advanced data security analytics. Least privilege gives users the access they need to do properly their job. Monitoring and data security analytics detect changes in behaviour that could indicate external or insider threats at work. Those two paradigms keep your business well protected.

Why is Privileged Access Management Important?

According to Gartner’s 2019 Best Practices for Privileged Account Management, a quality PAM solution should be based on four pillars: Provide full visibility of all privileged accounts, Govern and control privileged access, Monitor and audit privileged activity and Automate and integrate PAM tools. In this article, we list the most essential features that can help you secure privileged access to your company’s sensitive data according to these four pillars.

#1 Enhanced security with Multi-factor authentication

MFA feature is a necessary measure for making sure that only the right people have he right access to the critical data. It also prevents insider threats by mitigating the risk of malicious insiders “borrowing” passwords from their colleagues. Most MFA tools offer a combination of two factors: Knowledge (user credentials) and Possession. Validation techniques such as E-mail OTP, SMS OTP, biometrics, soft taken, challenge-response questions, etc. add an extra layer of security to the passwords making it almost impossible for hackers to decode it.

#2 Session management

A lot of security providers offer Privileged Access and Session Management (PASM) as a standalone solution or as a part of their privileged account management software. The capability to monitor and record privileged sessions provides security specialists with all needed information for auditing privileged activity and investigating cybersecurity incidents.

The main challenge here is to associate each recorded session with a particular user. In many companies, employees use shared accounts for accessing various systems and applications. If they use the same credentials, sessions initiated by different users will be associated with the same shared account. To deal with this case, you need a PAM solution that offers a secondary authentication functionality for shared and default accounts. So if a user logs in into the system under a shared account, they will be asked to provide their personal credentials as well, thus allowing to confirm that this particular session was started by this particular user.

#3 Quick detection of cyber risks

The security provided to privileged accounts is quite strict. As soon as any suspicious activity is detected the response comes immediately. That’s the reason why the incidences of data breaches and cyber attacks on privileged accounts are relatively less.

#4 Real-time privileged session monitoring and recording for detecting suspicious activity

The earlier the attack is stopped, the lesser the consequences will be.  In order to be able to respond to a possible security incident in a timely manner, you need to be notified about near to real-time.. Organizations with real-time privileged session monitoring and recording can detect suspicious activity the moment it occurs and automatically terminate such sessions hence reducing potential damages. Besides, session monitoring and recording enable for hackerproof storage of searchable audit logs which prevent privileged users from deleting their history or even editing them.

Most PAM solutions offer a set of standard rules and alerts. For instance, responsible security personnel will be notified every time the system registers a failed login attempt for a privileged account.

# 5 Comprehensive reporting and audit

A well-designed Privileged Access Management solution keeps a track of who is accessing the accounts, the number of times passwords change or updates are requested, how many times the accounts are being accessed, etc. A detailed report is generated and gives the organization a clear insight into the usage and security of the privileged account.

You should also be able to form different types of reports according to your specific needs and requirements. The best option is to get a full report about all activities performed underprivileged accounts or privileged sessions that were initiated out of the usual work hours.

# 6 PAM Enables Fast Track to Compliance

To comply with the standards of the organizations that handle regulations, you should have strong policies which cover privileged accounts, revoking of privileged accounts, audit usage, the security of logins for privileged accounts, and changing of the vendor default passwords amidst many other security control essentials. A PAM solution allows the organization to take control of the management and monitors the security of privileged accounts to meet the standards of the access control demands for a good number of the industry regulations.

Privileged access management remains a crucial element in the security infrastructure for all organizations as it offers solutions and benefits useful for defence against data threats. With privileged access management, companies can solve all potential dangers that might target their data. Here’s why PAM should come first for any business.

6 Benefits of Implementing Privileged Access Management

A great number of companies are facing challenges in maintaining data security, which is an essential part of their business. All they meet difficulties in handling those challenges. That is why it is important for them to know that attackers will always find a new way of doing their actions and getting everything they need. As a result, attackers who gain control of privileged accounts have the key to break the whole IT system.

To avoid the data breaches and to handle such situation, Privileged Access Management (PAM) comes to help the enterprises.

Privileged Access Management could be explained as the creation and enforcement of controls over users, systems and accounts that have elevated or “privileged” entitlements. According to Microsoft, Privileged Access Management (PAM) is a solution that helps organizations restrict privileged access within an existing Active Directory environment. Privileged Access Management accomplishes two goals:

The first goal is to re-establish control over a compromised Active Directory environment by maintaining a separate bastion environment that is known to be unaffected by malicious attacks. The second goals is to Isolate the use of privileged accounts to reduce the risk of those credentials being stolen.
The problems that PAM help could solve are related to vulnerabilities, unauthorized privilege escalations, spear phishing, Kerberos compromises and other attacks.

Nowadays it is easy for the attackers to obtain Domain Admins account credentials, but it is too difficult to discover these attacks after the fact. The goal of PAM is to limit the opportunities for malicious users to get access and at the same time to increase your control, visibility, and awareness of the environment.

What PAM does, is to make it hard for attackers to enter the network and obtain privileged account access. PAM adds protection to privileged groups that control access across a range of domain-joined computers and applications on those computers. In addition, it provides more monitoring, more visibility, and more fine-grained controls. This enables organizations to see who their privileged administrators are and what are they doing. PAM gives organizations more insight into how administrative accounts are used in the environment and that is a good prerequisite to prevent the data breaches.

Key PAM Benefits

Managing Access for Non-Employees

Misuse of privileged access, whether it’s through an external attacker or accidental misconfiguration, can cause a lot of troubles. For many enterprises, there are times when subcontracted personnel needs continued access to the system. In this case PAM offers a solution by including role-based access only. The benefit is that you will not need to provide domain credentials to outsiders and access will be limited based on administrator map user roles.

Automation

One of the top benefits of PAM system deployment is Automation. It also decreases the likelihood of human error, which is an inevitable part of the increasing workload placed on IT personnel. Switching from a manual privileged access management system to an automated solution, boosts the overall productivity, optimizes security protocols and at the same time reduces costs.

Threat Detection

PAM has the capability to track the behavior of users. On one hand, it allows you to look at the resources and information that are being accessed in order to detect suspicious behavior. On the other hand, the system itself makes reports and analysis on user activity. This makes it easier to stay in compliance with regulations and is used to review the actions of users if you suspect that there may be a leak.

Session Management

If a user has access to the system, PAM assists in workflow management through automation of each approval step throughout the session duration. You could also receive notification for specific access requests that require manual approval by an administrator. Session management gives you actually the ability to control, monitor and record access.

Protect Sensitive Data

There could be a situation, when people with high-privilege authority work in IT have access to your system. With this level of access, it is always possible to leave the system open to a threat. Besides, they could use their privilege to hide malicious behaviour.

To prevent that, PAM adds a level of accountability and oversight. It creates an audit trail that monitors the activity of all users. This makes it easier to find behaviours or actions that caused an attack.

Auditing

Auditability of authentication and access is core to the IAM lifecycle many organizations. Privileged activity auditing is already required in regulations for SOX, HIPAA, FISMA, and others. Auditing privileged access is essential due to the GDPR, which mandates management of access to personal data, putting all privileged access in scope.

As Kuppingercole’s analyst – Matthias Reinwarth says – Privileged Access Management has been and will be an essential set of controls for protecting the proverbial “keys to your kingdom”. Proper planning and continuous enhancement, strong enterprise strong enterprise policies, adequate processes, well-chosen technologies, extensive integration are key success factors. The same holds true for a well-executed requirements analysis, well-planned implementation, well-defined roll-out processes and an overall well-executed PAM project. The more attacks and data breaches are found and caused by misuse of privileged access, the more organizations have realized that protecting their credential data need to be a top priority.

Click to read PATECCO PAM White Paper here:

PATECCO Will be an Education Seminar Sponsor at E-Crime and Cyber Security Conference in Frankfurt

For a second time, next year, PATECCO will take part in the 14th edition of the conference E-Crime and Cyber Security. It will take place in Frankfurt, Germany, on 28th of January 2020. The company will be an Education Seminar Sponsor and will present its best practices in the field of Identity and Access Management.

The event is the leading market place for visitors of the banking industry and for IT service providers which activity is focused on the latest technological developments and IT trends.  The conference provides a good overview about the actual IT security sector and gives the opportunity to find out how the IT professionals in the organisations are meeting their goals, how they are addressing business priorities and operational objectives in order to reduce risk, protect data, ensure compliance and strengthen security posture.

During the one-day event, PATECCO will have a counter where its team members will welcome each visitor who is interested in Identity Access Governance IAG, Privileged Account Management (PAM), Security Incident and Event Management SIEM, Management and IT-Consulting, and Cloud Access Control. Each one, who is interested in these specific areas, will be invited in a personal meeting where all details will be considered.

Photo credit: akjassociates.com

Besides, the company’s CTO – Mr. Helmut Brachhaus, who is an expert Privileged Account Management,  will speak in a 35 minute session, related to the topic about BAIT (in German – Die Bankaufsichtlichen Anforderungen an die IT) or said in English – “The banking supervisory requirements for IT”.

Mr. Brachhaus will describe case studies that detail how security frameworks and methodologies are being applied in the real world to help lines of business and the board take advantage of new opportunities, increase productivity, enable agility and decrease cost. He will also share critical and unique insights that can inform the direction of business, technology and security strategy and practical steps that can help assess exposure to, articulate and proactively mitigate the impacts of emerging risks.

PATECCO is an international company, dedicated to development, implementation and support of Identity & Access Management solutions. Based on 20 years’ experience within IAM, high qualification and professional attitude, the company provides value-added services to customers from different industries such as banking, insurance, chemistry, pharma and utility.

PATECCO Has a New White Paper About Privileged Access Management Services

The new PATECCO White Paper in Privileged Access Management has already been issued by the German Analyst company – Kuppingercole, with the valuable support of Matthias Reinwarth. The report consists of 16 pages describing main points about PATECCO PAM solutions – Functionalities, Capabilities, Deployments, Landscapes, Implementation.

PATECCO Privileged Account Management (PAM) focuses on the specific requirements of privileged user accounts in a company’s IT infrastructure. PAM is used as an information security and governance tool to support companies in complying with legal and regulatory compliance regulations. It also helps to prevent internal data misuse through the use of privileged accounts.

For the past several years, PATECCO developed high skills in implementing PAM
solutions, describing and designing necessary processes, and connecting systems
to these solutions. The white paper presents in details PATECCO best practices in implementing PAM solutions in the following function subsets:

  • Identity Consolidation
  • Privileged Access Request
  • Super User Privilege Management (SUPM)
  • Shared Account Password Management (SAPM)
  • Application to Application Password Management (AAPM)

The report presents PATECCO’s projects as a good example of demonstrating PAM capabilities allowing privileged users to have efficient andsecure access to the systems they manage. They also ensure that audit and compliance requirements are met, provide secure and streamlined way to authorize and monitor all privileged users forall relevant systems.

More about Patecco Services for PAM implementation, check out in the report below:

PATECCO PAM Services

What’s the Difference between PAM and IAM tools?

Identity & Access Management (IAM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) are often misunderstood having similar features – both dealing with users, access and roles. They also refer to safeguarding data by protecting who has access to the systems, and what they are allowed to do on sensitive systems.

Despite these fact, they are actually quite different…

The role of PAM is to protect users with privileged access to sensitive data. IAM takes care of business’ everyday users or customers, controlling the access and experience that those users are granted within an application.

Usually it is recommended PAM solution to be primarily implemented, followed by a complimentary IAM solution. The reason is that PAM solutions take security and compliance a step further and help IT teams to get control over privileged users and accounts. Of course, there are organizations that implement Privileged Access Management and Identity and Access Management independently. In this way they miss some key values that could come from their integration such as getting control over user access, permissions and rights to address a security, and compliance.

Let’s now go back to the differences between PAM and IAM:  For example, IAM allows you to provide a salesperson with access to their email account, and provides higher level access for certain individuals to log into sensitive systems such as finance and HR.

In contrast, PAM tools are able to manage passwords and authentication and enable servers and databases to securely communicate. These privileged accounts are defined as highly sensitive because they give access to administrative capabilities such as network and server settings. 

IAM systems are great at establishing and removing the access to accounts but they lack the visibility and reporting when privileged access is performed on applications and databases. The ability to audit and monitor the actions of system administrators is a critical security capability required by regulations and reviewed periodically by auditors. And this is what PAM does – provides auditing and monitoring what a system administrator is doing in a specific system, a visibility on how identities are being used, and logging session reports.

IAM and PAM could be integrated and that process provides multiple benefits: PAM delivers data to IAM regarding who can have access to which role-based accounts and then IAM delivers data to PAM defining who should have access to privileged tasks.

How to Detect and Protect the Sensitive Data in the Cloud

As already mentioned in the previous article, Cloud computing has transformed the way organizations approach IT, enabling them to adopt new business models, to provide more services and productivity, and reduce IT costs. Cloud computing technologies can be implemented in different kinds of architectures, under different service and deployment models. At the same time they can also coexist with other technologies and software design approaches. Looking at the broad cloud computing landscape continuing to grow rapidly, it becomes obvious that access to sensitive data in the cloud should be properly monitored and controlled.

Cloud services facilitates data management and applications across a network linked through mobile devices, computers or tablets. But these networks can pose significant challenges for front-end security in the cloud computing environment. For overcoming any threats, there is a need of multiple levels of user-enforced security safeguards which are able to restrict access, authenticate user identity, preserve data integrity and protect the privacy of individual data. When implementing appropriate safeguards, policies and procedures, private data can be securely stored and accessed in third-party cloud servers by a network of users.

Best practices for monitoring access to sensitive data in the cloud

If compared to on premise data centres, cloud-based infrastructures are actually not that easy to monitor and manage. For providing high-quality data protection in the cloud, there is a number of measures which must be undertaken

1. Provide end-to-end visibility

The lack of visibility across the infrastructure is one of the little disadvantages of the cloud-based solutions. Consequently, there is a need of ensuring end-to-end visibility into the infrastructure, data, and applications. The implementation of an efficient identity and access management system can help limiting the access to critical data. It also makes it clear to understand who exactly accesses and works with your business’s critical data. A high-level granularity of access management allows granting elevated privileges only to users that actually need it.

2. Implement Privileged Access Management to Secure access to valuable information

Privileged Account Management (PAM) systems are designed to control access to highly critical systems. PAM security and governance tools support companies in complying with legal and regulatory compliance. Their capabilities allow privileged users to have efficient and secure access to the systems they manage. Besides it offers secure and streamlined way to authorize and monitor all privileged users for all relevant systems.


3. Monitor implementation and audit access to sensitive data

It is necessary to conduct periodic audits to identify security vulnerabilities and monitor compliance. Continuous monitoring and auditing of the cloud infrastructure allows detecting possible attacks and data breaches at an early stage. PAM capabilities will also help you to successfully monitor sensitive data and manage access to it.

4. Use RBAC to Control what users have access to.

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a method of restricting network access based on the roles of individual users within an enterprise. RBAC lets employees have access rights only to the information they need to do their jobs and prevents them from accessing information that doesn’t pertain to them. An employee’s role in an organization determines the permissions that individual is granted and ensures that lower-level employees can’t access sensitive information or perform high-level tasks.

5. Use SIEM Technology

SIEM technology supports threat detection and security incident response through the real-time event collection and historical analysis of security events, from a wide variety of event and contextual data sources. SIEM also helps enterprises manage the increasing volumes of logs coming from disparate online sources. Storing the logs from different sources in a central secured database make the process of consolidation and analysis easy.

SIEM supports compliance reporting and incident investigation through analysis of historical data from these sources, as well.

6. Build an efficient incident-response strategy.

It is recommended to make a plan which would help you react immediately to a possible security incident in an adequate manner. It should include several important steps such as determining authority to call an incident, establishing clearly defined team roles and responsibilities, establishing communications procedures and responsibilities, increasing end user awareness and deploying the Right Tools.

All the above mentioned points, concerning implementing appropriate safeguards, policies and procedures, are a good prerequisite for keeping private data securely stored and a protected.

Why Privileged Access Management Is So Essential For an Organization

Nowadays data breaches are occurring to more and more enterprises around the world. Unfortunately the impacts of breaches are supposed to destroy the company’s reputation and to bring lots of financial losses.

The best way to avoid such hard situation is to have a strong security solution to detect and prevent attacks. What could be really helpful is Privileged Access Management (PAM). It provides the capabilities to detect data breaches and defend your organization against them.

Why companies need PAM?

Using a PAM solution helps you keep constant control and visibility over your company’s most critical data and systems. In this way it is protected against the accidental misuse of privileged access by streamlining the authorization and monitoring of privileged users.

Imagine a situation whenyour organization is growing. The bigger and more complex your organization’s IT systems get, the more privileged users you have listed. These include employees, contractors, remote or automated users, as well.  Then you start wondering what access has been granted and what users are actually doing. Consequently this complicated moment makes it difficult to understand security risks. What you need is to track the provision, management and retirement of these critical account entitlements. This is possible by the implementation of PAM solutions (including valuable vaulting, single sign-on and multi-factor authentication) to protect known privileged access credentials.

You’re in a big trouble if some of the admin users makes unauthorized system changes, access forbidden data, and then hide their actions. But PAM is able to solve this problem by offering a secure, streamlined way to authorize and monitor all privileged users for all relevant systems. Besides, it grants access only when it’s needed and revoke access when the need expires. It is also capable of creating an unalterable audit trail for any privileged operation.

The benefits PAM brings to business:

PAM supports simultaneous detection of user access throughout every company access point whether or not a request is being issued for the same area or a different part of the system. It manages and secures all access from a central location, as well. The other essential benefits refer to:

  • Automation: Switching from a purely manual privileged access management system to an automated solution lowers costs, boosts overall productivity, and optimizes security protocols.
  • Role-based access: PAM software offers a solution by including role-based access. The benefit in using this aspect is that there is no need to provide domain credentials to outsiders and access will be limited based on administrator map user roles.
  • Multifactor Authentication: PAM software meets this challenge by allowing for multi-factor authentication protocols (MAP) when a user requests access. All of the time and event based protocols are supported by PAM.
  • Auditing and Reporting: PAM provides recording and reporting for a variety of different activities including password requests, and session recording of transactions throughout your particular system. Besides, PAM software has the ability to provide hundreds of different reports including asset reports, compliance report, privilege reports, and vulnerability reports.

A few words about PATECCO’s Privileged Access Management:

PATECCO’s practice is to apply comprehensive approach byconsolidating identities creating a unified identity “persona” across all heterogeneous operating systems and environments. This improves reporting and reduces audit time and forensics investigations. It also links role-based control of user access to critical systems, applications, and services with specific user identities.  Its Privileged Access Management provides a scalable and comprehensive audit, and reporting solution for user activity on critical systems.

PATECCO’s Best Practices For Securing Privileged Accounts

In a time of rapid digital transformation, a lot of organizations face challenges managing privileged accounts. To strictly control, protect, monitor, and manage them, such companies use Privileged Account Management (PAM). It grants privileges to users only for systems on which they are authorized, centrally manages access over systems and eliminates local system passwords for privileged users. Besides, PAM creates an unalterable audit trail for any privileged operation and may track user activity to command detection.

PATECCO provides consultations on PAM solutions’ implementations into the customers’ infrastructure, especially in banking and telecommunication sector. The two main components of its PAM projects are Password management and Session management. The password management refers to different types of accounts such as Privileged (administrative) account, Shared account, Administrator, root, QSECOFR, Emergency account, Technical account (only used for machine to machine communication), etc.

For example, shared and emergency accounts, in general are highly privileged accounts. They differ in approval workflow to get the corresponding password. The use of shared accounts can be planned, but the emergency accounts need faster workflow. The problem with the shared accounts is that without PAM, it is not clear who uses this account, at what time. By using PAM, the companies can make sure, that only one person could use such account for a predefined time. This is stored in an activity log and after using this account by that person (checking in), the password is changed by PAM. This process is called “breaking glass scenario”.

In reference to session management, it is ensured that all data gathered (session files and some activity logs) is stored in a safe manner (encrypted) and the access to these is possible only via the “principle of four eyes”. Guideline and process documents are designed and agreed with the works council, the data security officer and some other people involved in compliance processes.

For the past 3 years, PATECCO developed high skills in implementing PAM solutions, describing and designing necessary processes, and connect systems to these solutions. Its IT consulting team can offer best practices in the following functional PAM subsets:

1. Identity Consolidation

  • Consolidate UNIX, Linux, LDAP identities under a single unique ID in Active Directory for centralized identity, role, and privilege management and Kerberos-based authentication
  • Deleting or disabling as many privileged accounts as possible to reduce the attack surface

2. Privileged Access Request

  • Establishing a solution (tool) that supports workflow-based privileged access request across both SUPM and SAPM components for stronger security, governance, and compliance

3. Super User Privilege Management (SUPM)

  • Minimizing the number of shared accounts. Reduce/disable the number of privileged accounts. Use of host-based SUPM for least privilege login with unique ID and explicit privilege elevation wherever possible, and use of SAPM for accounts where SUPM cannot be used as the EXCEPTION not the RULE.

4. Shared Account Password Management (SAPM)

  • Data breach mitigation is most effective when reducing the attack surface — reducing the number of privileged accounts as close to zero as possible and only using SAPM for emergency login scenarios such as “break glass”.

5. Application to Application Password Management (AAPM)

  • Replacing plain text passwords embedded in scripts with an API call to a company’s SAPM service for better security and reduced IT administrative overhead

After introducing PATECCO’s best practices in Privileged Account Management, it’s time to summarise the main goals of its PAM projects: to demonstrate PAM capabilities allowing privileged users to have efficient and secure access to the systems they manage, and ensuring that audit and compliance requirements are met.