While this article aims to define what is endpoint privilege management, I will first begin to explain the circumstances of this process.

Within any organization, privileges are usually split between two levels of hierarchy: standard users and administrators. The highest level of privilege is often provided to Domain Administrators who have the ability to modify and gain access to all standard user machines. On the other hand, local administrators have full access to their particular endpoint and the data within it.

In addition, administrators have exclusive privileges to run certain applications with elevated privileges.

When a standard user needs to run an application that only works in administrator mode, organizations provide the user with admin credentials or elevate the entire organizational-level privilege of that particular user. However, this would not only give them access to that particular application but also to all the top-level privileges the admin has.

If we were to live in a cyber-crime-free universe, there would be no issues with this particular case. Unfortunately, we don’t. Cybersecurity Insiders’ 2020 Insider Threat Report states that 68% of organizations feel moderately to extremely vulnerable to insider attacks. This highlights how risky granting admin credentials to any standard user is. So, the question is – what can admins do in this situation? The answer is employing endpoint privilege management.

What Is Endpoint Privilege Management?

According to BeyondTrust’s Guide to Endpoint Privilege Management,

Endpoint privilege management is the process of allowing your employees enough access to remain productive in their roles, without giving them full administrator rights over your IT system.

Gartner analyst Lori Robinson defines endpoint privilege management as the combination of privilege management and application control:

Endpoint privilege management (EPM) technologies combine application control and privilege management to ensure that only trusted applications run, and that they run with the lowest possible privilege. With EPM, organizations can remove local admin access with minimal impact on end users.

When it comes to explaining what is endpoint privilege management, Robinson believes that by employing on-demand privilege elevation, EPM provides users with the privileges necessary to run trusted applications and conduct authorized tasks. EPM further protects and enables end-users by empowering them to get access to operations for which they were not previously approved.

In short, with endpoint privilege management employees are not granted permissions for more than what is required of their role. In cybersecurity, we define this as the “principle of least privilege”.

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Benefits of Using Endpoint Privilege Management

With Endpoint Privilege Management, organizations can protect and empower high-end users. But the advantages of implementing EPM solutions don’t stop here. Let’s have a look at the list of benefits they offer:

#1. EPM removes administrator rights from users

High privileged accounts are often the target of malware that relies on them to infiltrate into the corporate network. Endpoint Privilege Management allows you to remove administrator rights from users, without compromising their productivity.

#2. EPM assigns privileges to applications

Endpoint Privilege Management assigns the necessary privileges to the user when the application is launched. The mechanism is invisible to the end-user and allows the latter to remain productive using their standard account.

#3. EPM provides simple and centralized management

Allowing an application to run with privileges has never been easier. Declare applications in policies and configure identification options. Then assign the applications to the users in question, and configure any options (warning messages, audit and monitoring, etc.). The policies are automatically converted to group policies and deployed during the next application cycle.

#4. EPM ensures application control

In addition to controlling the privileges assigned to applications, Endpoint Privilege Management can also be used to control which applications a user is authorized to install or run. Policies can be configured as a “whitelist” listing approved applications on a system. Unauthorized applications, including installers and scripts, can be blocked.

#5. EPM offers on-demand elevation

For the most demanding users, Endpoint Privilege Management solutions offer the option of “on-demand” elevation. The user logs in with a standard account and can elevate an application from a right-click in the context menu. Elevated applications are audited, to ensure that users do not abuse these privileges.

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#6. EPM upgrades ease of deployment

Thanks to its predefined rules, Endpoint Privilege Management innovates by its ease of installation. The various pre-configured scenarios make it possible to cover the various needs of your users and thus reduce deployment costs.

Employing Endpoint Privilege Management to Prevent Attacks

What is endpoint privilege management in the face of cyberattacks? EPM provides security managers with Zero trust best practices as it ensures greater privilege endpoint visibility, which helps in suppressing and preventing attacks on endpoints.

In Architecting Privileged Access Management for Cyber Defense, Gartner analyst Homan Farahmand states that

The privileged access threat landscape is growing with a higher risk of enabling cyberattacks and severe consequences. Technical professionals must architect privileged access control capabilities to defend against exploitation scenarios and to resist advance persistent attacks.

If it’s exploited or misused, local admin access can compromise network security, which can further result in data loss, high support costs, and poor user experience. Users with unfiltered local admin privileges have full control of the endpoint, including the ability to perform file system changes, run unauthorized processes or apps, disable security and system settings, install malware that exploits privileged access, change the standard desktop configuration settings.

Although local admin rights are not as powerful as domain-level privileges, they shouldn’t be overlooked. Threat actors can exploit local admin rights to gain access to further network controls. After breaking into an endpoint system, they use the passwords and privileges they provide to move further to where the most valuable assets are.

So, what is endpoint privilege management without privilege escalation? EPM can keep cyberattacks restrained to users’ devices. With the help of privilege escalation, users can reduce lateral movement by eliminating or decreasing local admin privileges on endpoints.

However, EPM doesn’t replace firewalls or anti-virus, which can block endpoint attacks. Therefore, for comprehensive endpoint security, I would advise you to integrate an EPM solution with additional technologies.

Heimdal™ Security’s Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Software brings you real-time proactive security via DNS filtering, smart threat hunting, proactive behavioral detection, automated patch management, a next-gen Antivirus, and a module for automated admin rights escalation/de-escalation procedures. Thus, we deliver a multi-layered security approach within a single and lightweight agent. Our customers get access to next-gen endpoint threat prevention and protection from existing and undiscovered threats, plus a market-leading detection rate and compliance, all in one package.

This way, teams can manage the entire security tool stack more easily and enhance each component’s effectiveness.

Final Thoughts on What Is Endpoint Privilege Management

Security breach incidents such as theft of credentials, corporate espionage, and swiping of data assets arise from unprotected connected devices. IT administrators often find it difficult to keep a weather eye on every activity performed from endpoint privileges, causing a lack of IT oversight.

By incorporating endpoint privilege management solutions, organizations can make sure productivity is not obstructed because of access restrictions without providing local admin rights or top-level privileges to standard users. However, an EPM solution alone is no substitute for good administrative control. Only when used together with proper technologies, it becomes a powerful tool that automatically de-escalates user rights, should any threats be detected on the machine.

Drop a line below if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions regarding the topic of What is endpoint privilege management – we can’t wait to hear your opinion!

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