5 Essential Features to Look for in a PAM Solution
Finding a great Privileged Access Management solution for your business
You probably already know it by now – the ultimate purpose of cybercriminals is to gain access to your organization’s sensitive data and systems, and your goal is to impede their malicious actions. Stuck in what may feel like a never-ending cat and mouse game, you find yourself faced with the challenge of constantly trying to secure your business from different attack scenarios. Nonetheless, this is becoming an increasingly complicated task, as cyber intruders are leveraging multiple entry points nowadays, with privileged user accounts being one of them. Managing and securing these accounts falls on your sysadmins’ shoulders and besides implementing Privileged Access Management (PAM) best practices, also finding a proper PAM solution becomes a necessity.
In one of our articles we define privileged access management, so if you’re not familiar with the term, make sure you check it out as well.
On the dangers of privileged accounts
It’s a fair assumption that privileged accounts are both powerful and dangerous, so privileged account management is indeed required. Sometimes, it only takes one hacked privileged user account for ill-intentioned actors to start sweeping through your business, this is why PAM must become an important part of your IT security endeavors.
Privileged accounts can provide attackers with unrestricted access to an organization’s network, as well as the ability to create additional users or view, delete, and modify sensitive data. These types of accounts are usually classified under seven different categories. In two of our articles, we explain what Privileged Access Management and Privileged Account Management are and also discuss the main types of PAM accounts, so I suggest you go through these as well. In short, privileged accounts are generally employed by system administrators to manage networks, deploy software, access confidential information, etc. Essentially, their purpose is to keep the digital operations of any business up and running.
Privileged account attack vectors may take many forms and unfold under different scenarios:
- a cyber attacker breaking into a privileged account and wreaking havoc on your company,
- a discontent employee who may intentionally do harm,
- an employee who may unintentionally conduct unauthorized tasks or fall prey to phishing attacks, where malicious hackers harvest his/her credentials,
- a malevolent ex-employee who may still have access to your organization’s systems, etc.
In any case, users with elevated rights must be protected, regardless of the nature of the admin rights abuse.
How to secure your privileged accounts
You can always consider securing your privileged accounts manually. However, this will turn out to be a time-consuming and exhausting process – if not impossible. Besides the fact that manual operations can lead to decreased productivity and human-caused error, in the event of failure, the disaster recovery costs will outweigh the money spent investing in a PAM solution. What’s more, should you conduct the process manually, you will not be able to demonstrate ROI on your privileged account management efforts.
This brings us to the second option you have to handle privileged accounts in your organization – through a Privileged Access Management solution. By doing so, your PAM activities will become efficient, and this way you will get the best value out of it. Even though it will not generate any sales by itself, a PAM solution will save you time and money by preventing costly cyber incidents.
What are Privileged Access Management solutions?
What exactly is a PAM solution and what does it do?
Here is a short and pretty straightforward definition provided by Gartner:
“PAM tools help organizations provide secure privileged access to critical assets and meet compliance requirements by managing and monitoring privileged accounts and access.”
In essence, PAM solutions aim to address the risks of users with elevated privileges and enable administrators to safely manage these accounts.
Finding the right PAM solution for your business
A PAM solution needs to be an integral part of your IT security and successfully allow you to prevent cybercriminals from compromising your organization.
The main benefits of Privileged Access Management solutions are the following:
- Enhanced overall cybersecurity – perhaps the most apparent advantage of a PAM security solution is benefiting from increased security.
- Protection against insider and outsider threats. Attacks can come from inside and outside sources and thus, it’s critical to be able to safeguard your business from both of them. Following the Principle of Least Privilege (every person in an organization must be provisioned with the bare minimum access in order to be able to perform his/her job function) and the Zero Trust model (one should never trust everything by default, but always verify in the first place), a PAM security solution will prove to be effective against all types of malicious actors. Security breaches (be them accidental or intentional) caused by insiders will always be more difficult to detect without any Privileged Access Management solutions in place, which offer a centralized view of each endpoint’s activity and permissions use.
- Increased productivity. PAM tools will save huge amounts of time for system administrators and provide them with a complete overview and control over the entire network.
- Full compliance. There are many regulations that demand logging activities and a granular approach over the IT environment (restricting access for certain users, requiring approvals for users with elevated rights, etc.) which is where a PAM solution comes in useful.
What to look for in Privileged Access Management solutions
Now that you’ve understood the importance of a PAM solution, to assist you in your search, below I’ve included five essential features a top-notch PAM tool should have that will simplify your privileged account management.
#1. Access control for privileged accounts
A PAM solution should allow sysadmins to provide users with elevated privileges for a limited time only for specific tasks or software runs and with full visibility on the actions conducted during the elevation period.
#2. Monitor and record privileged access sessions
A great PAM tool should provide you with a full audit trail for system admins to be able to log what users are doing with their limited period of privilege escalation.
#3. Filter and control privileged operations:
A PAM solution should enable users to indicate exactly what they want to do with the elevated rights when applying for a privileged access session and administrators to be able to approve or deny requests. Furthermore, the IT staff should have the ability to check whether the privileges were used as specified.
#4. Remote control
Remote employees should have the option to use the same applications they would be able to use while in the workplace, with privileged access being centralized both on-premises and in the cloud. A great PAM security solution will provide your staff with special access without requiring domain credentials.
#5. Complete visibility and alerts in real-time
Last but not least, first-rate PAM security software will provide you with alerts so that any potential threats can be addressed as quickly as possible. For instance, Heimdal™ Privileged Access Management goes beyond that, since it is the only tool on the market that de-escalates your users’ rights upon threat detection (when used in tandem with the enterprise version of Heimdal™ Threat Prevention, Heimdal™ Next-Gen Antivirus & MDM, or Endpoint Security Suite).
Heimdal™ Privileged Access Management
- Automate the elevation of admin rights on request;
- Approve or reject escalations with one click;
- Provide a full audit trail into user behavior;
- Automatically de-escalate on infection;
Heimdal™ Privileged Access Management raises the bar in Privileged Access Management, being a modular PAM software that helps your organization increase its cybersecurity and ensuring full compliance and greater productivity. It’s the most innovative PAM security solution, as it does not only allow you to efficiently manage user rights, but it also lets your users install software themselves while keeping your organization completely safe and providing logs and audit trails for data protection and compliance.
Don’t turn a blind eye to Privileged Access Management tools, as all businesses are prone to the risk of having their privileged accounts exploited. At the end of the day, insider and outsider threats remain a serious danger, that must neither be underestimated nor ignored.
Is your organization using any Privileged Access Management solutions? Share with us your experience in the comments section below!