Privileged Access Management (PAM)

Also known as privileged identity management, privileged access management is a major talking point for any business owner or IT manager. Don’t ignore this vital aspect of cybersecurity, which will make your organization look safe and trustworthy in the eyes of your clients and business partners.

What Is Privileged Access Management?

Privileged access is any type of special access that goes beyond what a standard user would have. Users across an organization occasionally need access to sensitive, private company data to do their jobs. PAM helps businesses run efficiently without compromising on confidential resources.

To secure the infrastructure, an IT professional grants privileges to the users, who may be either human or machine entities like applications or services. These privileges, credentials, and secrets exist everywhere, and larger enterprises often have trouble managing all of them.

Why Does It Matter?

Any privileged access is unfortunately an entry point for cybercriminals. For this reason, the common strategy is grounded in the principle of least privilege, where users only receive the minimum amount of access required to get the job done. This way, if a hacker ever gains access to an account, the resulting damage is minimized as well.

There’s also the concept of zero-trust access. A healthy way to approach security is literally to “trust no one.” Because any malicious insider can take advantage of an account’s privileges, it’s a fundamental security practice to assume that all accounts are initially untrustworthy.

Privileged access management protects against the threat of credential theft or privilege misuse. It’s more than just a list of tips; PAM is a comprehensive cybersecurity initiative that involves auditing all the privileges and activities across an IT environment.

Types of PAM Accounts

There are many types of accounts that enterprises consider when designing a PAM initiative. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Privileged user accounts: the most common form of enterprise account. It’s essentially any user with administrator privileges.
  • Local admin accounts: Which accounts have access to local hosts. IT staff who use them for maintenance often make the mistake of using the same password multiple times.
  • Application accounts: Because enterprise apps often integrate with other parts of the business, they usually have access to more critical information and resources than you think.
  • Domain administrative accounts: These “super admins” have access to all the high-level workstations and services. Because of this extensive network access, these accounts are the largest target for cybercriminals.
  • Emergency accounts: Any accounts that administrators grant to users during times of emergency.

Thanks to this large variety of accounts and secrets to cover, PAM is rarely a simple task to achieve.

Privileged Access Management Best Practices

Do you want to reduce cybersecurity risk, achieve regulatory compliance, and protect the reputation of your brand? Adopting privileged access management as part of the company culture is the best path to success here. Some best practices include:

  • Automatically rotating secrets and passwords after each use.
  • Enforcing multi-factor authentication.
  • Choosing a platform that supports all types of secrets, including SSH keys, API keys, passwords, and others.
  • Controlling access from third-party applications. Part of this step is to avoid using the hard-coded credentials you get from off-the-shelf business apps.
  • Using a digital secrets vault for centrally managing all your high-level infrastructure accounts.

This last point is particularly important. A centralized secrets management vault enables many of the benefits of privileged access management. Specifically, managing all the credentials in a business can be inefficient and costly if done manually.

When it comes to tracking privileges and account activity, centralizing your PAM protocol is the best way to dig out threats, monitor your security, and achieve compliance.

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