Privileged account management (PAM) is a domain within identity and access management (IAM) that focuses on monitoring and controlling the use of privileged accounts. Managing privileged accounts is an important and complicated task. Financial institutions often operate highly complex infrastructure and disparate systems that run on multiple operating systems. Managing and controlling access to these privileged accounts is further complicated by the significant pace of workforce and responsibility changes over time. Lastly, changes made at a system level can be used to bypass controls, to hide activity, and to cause financial institutions to breach their stringent reporting and compliance requirements.

  • The Challenge:

On one hand, financial organizations rely on privileged accounts to enable authorized users to perform their duties with little to no direct oversight or technical control of their actions. Companies have difficulty managing these accounts, which, in turn, opens a significant risk to the business. If used improperly, these accounts can cause substantial operational damage, including data theft, espionage, sabotage, or ransom. Malicious external actors can gain unauthorized access to privileged accounts through a variety of techniques, such as leveraging stolen credentials or social engineering schemes. In addition, there are rare instances of disgruntled employees who abuse their accounts, as well as honest employees who make mistakes. Misuse and mistakes can affect both high-value applications (e.g., payment systems) and core systems (e.g., human resources, database access, access control). 

On the other hand, privileged accounts comprise not only employees with direct, hands-on responsibility for system and network administration but also vendors, contractors, business partners and others who have been granted privileged access to systems within your organization. In many cases, privileged accounts aren’t even people—they can be applications or configuration files empowered by hard-coded administrative credentials. According to a number of data breach investigations reports the finance sector reported more than 1000 data breaches and was one of the top industries subject to insider and privilege misuse.

The sad fact is that exploited privileged accounts are a common thread in many data breaches, regardless of whether those accounts were compromised by external actors with malicious intent or simply abused by insiders. As data moves to the cloud, accessed by multiple third-parties and handled by insiders, the threat grows ever larger, as does the challenge of protecting your organization from evolving threats and staying in compliance with internal, industry, local, country and international regulations. These compliance mandates include access control and data security regulations that your organization is legally required to meet. Not doing so could mean everything from fines for non-compliance to actual data breaches from lack of prevention. This is the cost of negligence.

  • What Financial Services Organization Must Do to Secure Access to Data?

While the nature, extent and technological sophistication behind data breaches continue to evolve, what is needed is a defence-in-depth strategy with multiple layers of security. In this new world, level of access is everything: which accounts have access, what they are accessing and why they have access are critical elements to understand. Many financial services organizations are moving to what is known as a zero-trust model, in which it is assumed that a corporate account has already been compromised. That perspective prompts the need to control, monitor and audit user access and activity, ensuring that the right people have the most appropriate, fine-grained level of access: just enough to do their jobs, but no more. As part of this process, companies are automating the privileging (and de-privileging) process as well as recording and reporting on user activities to prevent breaches before they occur. Automation also helps to defend against privilege escalation that results in access to sensitive resources and prevents the compromise of new systems as well as data exfiltration.

  • What does PAM Solution provide to Financial Services Customers?

Whether they are obtained maliciously or leveraged inappropriately by a valid user, exploited privileged user accounts are the common thread of most data breaches. And as your environment grows increasingly complex, so does the challenge of defending against ever more sophisticated—and damaging—attacks. PATECCO offers a comprehensive PAM solution delivering both network- and host-based controls for the enterprise and hybrid cloud. Our customers use PAM to provide secure access with enhanced security for authentication and authorization. While most legacy systems in the financial services industry do not have hardened security, with PAM, methods for third-party integration such as multifactor authentication as well as single sign-on tools using role management techniques can easily be deployed, removing the requirement for enhancement to the application while providing a centralized, auditable, and repeatable process of access control.

In addition, PAM supports compliance requirements regarding access control  as well as protection of consumer accounts through tracking and reporting user activities as well as configuration changes to the network, enforcing access control to all network devices and network servers and producing audit reports that document and verify this, among other things. Regardless of the compliance use case, financial enterprises can count on PAM to manage user authentication and authorization, secure access to information and provide comprehensive audit trails for access, usage and password management as part of a solid, defence-in-depth security program.

Implementing a PAM system is an essential way for financial institutions to effectively secure, manage, control, and audit the activities of privileged accounts. A properly implemented and administered PAM system can help your organization meet compliance requirements, limit opportunity for and reduce the damage that a privileged user can cause, and improve the enforcement of access policies. The other benefits that PAM solution provides to the financial companies are the following:

  • identifying vulnerabilities and risk factors within your organization
  • limiting opportunity for a successful attack by improving control over privileged accounts
  • improving efficiencies by reducing the complexity associated with managing privileged accounts, 76 which leads to the following results
  • minimizing damage that results from misuse and mistakes by internal/external actors
  • automating enforcement of existing access policies
  • simplifying compliance by producing automated reports and documentation

To guard against costly data breaches, smart financial institutions are protecting and automating access to privileged accounts across both physical and virtual systems. Whether your company’s data is on-premises, in the cloud or within a hybrid infrastructure, it’s critical to protect, monitor and audit privileged access everywhere. Employing a zero-trust model with a defence-in-depth approach to security that includes privileged access management offers your organization the best chance of protection against ever-evolving threats.

For more information about PATECCO PAM Solutions and best practices, check out our latest Whitepaper: