Casting Some Light upon the Concept of Privilege Identity Management
What Is Privilege Identity Management and How It Can Enhance Cybersecurity – Plus a Comparison Between PIM, PAM, IAM.
What is Privilege Identity Management? How does it differ from Privileged Access Management and Identity Access Management? What benefits does Privilege Identity Management bring and what risks do companies face if they don’t implement such a solution? Keep reading to find out!
What Is Privilege Identity Management? Some Definitions
As defined by the Oxford Computer Training, Privilege Identity Management is
a capability within identity management focused on the special requirements of managing highly privileged access. PIM is an information security and governance tool to help companies meet compliance regulations and to prevent system and data breaches through the improper use of privileged accounts. The management of privileged identities is automated with various customized policies and workflows.
However, to fully understand the PIM definition, we need to know what is identity access management, what is privileged account management and privileged access management and, most importantly, what are privileged accounts. Let us have a closer look at all of them:
Privileged accounts are those accounts that have the most power inside an IT department and are used by the IT team to set up the IT infrastructure, to install new software or hardware, to run critical services or to conduct maintenance operations. In other words, privileged accounts have access to an organization’s highly classified IT assets and the sensitive information stored within them.
Privileged Account Management
This term refers to managing the actual account privileges in a certain organization. PAM best practices include maintaining an up-to-date inventory of all the privileged accounts, minimizing the number of personalized privileged accounts and monitoring all privileged activity.
Privileged Access Management
As my colleague Bianca said, privileged access management “ensures business safety through privileged accounts monitoring, preventing external and internal threats that result from the improper use of admin rights.”
Identity Access Management
The lines between privileged management and identity access management seem to be pretty blurred. However, the latter is more about the users than the privileges. According to IAM, every individual (you, your boss, the HR person etc.) should have only one digital identity, even if they access multiple accounts. Once established, the digital identity should be maintained and monitored.
What Is Privilege Identity Management? Some Differences
The PIM, PAM and IAM acronyms are often mentioned interchangeably but represent distinct security facets that can work together to protect data and information across organizations.
- Identity Access Management focuses on the unique digital identity of the people in the network, an identity that can be tracked and managed.
- Privilege Identity Management deals with the privileges that are assigned to various identities by, usually, IT teams or System administrators.
- Privileged Access Management acts as a final layer, approving the level of access and the kind of information that privileges retrieve.
As Aujas Cybersecurity notes, “Privileged Identity Management helps in monitoring unregulated areas of IAM. IAM helps protect the overall network, while PIM keeps privileged Identities in check and confirms those with administrative rights does not indulge in privilege misuse.”
What Is Privilege Identity Management? Benefits
Since nowadays a great percentage of the data stolen by hackers is obtained through web application breaches, securing privileged credentials is of paramount importance. Here’s how Privilege Identity Management can help:
- PIM discovers and documents privileged accounts logins in web applications, packaged software programs and other applications.
- PIM can tell you whether credentials are stored in plain text files, encrypted or compiled into the applications themselves.
- PIM looks at the links between applications, so it can ensure that password changes are synchronized to avoid disruptions.
Moreover, Privilege Identity Management
- is required or recommended by regulation that manages threats associated with high privilege IT access.
- can be required by business partners, when they have to answer to auditing standards.
- is a sign of business practices confidence, saying that you don’t leave business-critical data and operations to chance.
- reduces costs in terms of maintenance and support, but also in terms of loss of reputation, if a data breach should occur.
What is Privilege Identity Management? Risks of Not Having It
In her article Why Removing Admin Rights Closes Critical Vulnerabilities in Your Organization, my colleague, Miriam, has already pointed out some dangerous numbers:
63% of all data breaches come from weak or stolen passwords – if users didn’t have admin privileges, this would not be so dangerous;
74% of all data breaches come from the abuse of accounts with admin privileges;
In a notoriously bad decision, Equifax used ‘admin’ as the username and password of a database, leading to a huge data breach;
Deloitte had a data breach in 2017 by having accounts with admin privileges compromised;
Facebook has been all over the news with scandals and data breaches and leaks derived from mishandling of admin rights; […]
Marriot had the financial data of over 400 million users stolen over a time window of 4 years – if unauthorized access was tracked better through admin rights management, the breach would have been discovered sooner;
However, there are other threats of not having a privilege identity management solution settled that are worth mentioning too:
If hackers get access to a privileged account, they could use it to deliver ransomware, lock out accounts or shut the entire network down. Employees that leave the company and still have privileges are equally dangerous.
Unsecure password management
Simple passwords are easier to remember, but they’re also easy to guess for cyberattackers. This leaves a door into your systems that you wouldn’t like to be open.
HID comes from Human Interface Devices. An example of HID would be the modern printers that can be accessed via the web, can support multiple protocols and have browser interfaces. Any document left unintentionally on the printer can be in danger if the default credentials are compromised.
Vendors may have physical or remote access to your environment. This is dangerous from a cybersecurity point of view, as my colleague Bianca notes:
An attacker with insider knowledge had stolen the personal data of 2 million of Vodafone’s customers from a server located in Germany. The malicious actor worked for a company contractor and was not a direct Vodafone employee, which only emphasizes that vendor privileges should also be carefully monitored.
If you already consider looking for a software solution that can help you mitigate all these threats, you can check our very own Heimdal™ Privileged Access Management.
With its centralized dashboard for admin requests and automatic approval flows, your system admins will be able to approve or deny user requests from anywhere or set up an automated flow.
The Heimdal™ Privileged Access Management solution can easily be integrated with any other Heimdal™ Security module or product and gains new insights as it connects to them. Thanks to its smart integration, it actually is the only PAM solution in the world that can de-escalate privileges on infection or threat detection (IOA / IOC).
Heimdal™ Privileged Access
What Is Privilege Identity Management? Wrapping Up
As we have seen, the concept of privileges is not only related to administrator and root credentials and the possible data breaches that might occur, but are also linked to aspects like human interface devices or vendors. Consequently, managing them is essential for the (cyber)security of any company.
However you choose to proceed, please remember that Heimdal™ Security always has your back and that our team is here to help you protect your home and your company and to create a cybersecurity culture to the benefit of anyone who wants to learn more about it.
Drop a line below if you have any comments, questions or suggestions regarding the topic of privilege identity management – we are all ears and can’t wait to hear your opinion!