Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions are designed to protect organizations from a variety of threats that target privileged accounts, credentials and access. These solutions help to secure, manage and monitor access to critical systems and sensitive data. For many organizations, implementing a PAM solution is the best way to protect against common cyber threats and security issues including insider threats, credential theft, social engineering attacks, secrets sprawl and compliance or audit failures.
However, while many executives and business stakeholders understand the importance of cybersecurity, they might not fully grasp the nuances and benefits of PAM. That could make it difficult for IT teams to find the buy-in necessary to deploy a PAM solution.
Many non-technical leaders simply need help understanding the basics of PAM — and why their organization will benefit from having a solution. Basic concepts are important to explain, such as:
- What are privileged accounts
- What types of threats privileged accounts face
- How privileged accounts can be hardened and protected
- Why a next-gen PAM solution is the best way to secure them
In this blog, we’ll provide suggestions for making a business case for PAM to a non-technical audience such as senior executives or other stakeholders outside of the IT department.
What Are Privileged Accounts and Why Are They Important?
A privileged account is a user account that has elevated permissions or access rights within an organization’s systems, applications or network infrastructure. These accounts have the authority to perform administrative or sensitive tasks that can impact the security, integrity or availability of critical systems and data.
Privileged accounts pose significant security risks due to their elevated access rights. When misused, either accidentally or maliciously, it can lead to severe consequences, such as data breaches, system downtime or regulatory non-compliance.
When making a business case for a PAM deployment, use realistic scenarios to help articulate the threat that a compromised privileged account would pose. For example, present a scenario where a malicious actor, either an external hacker or a disgruntled insider, gains access to a domain administrator account.
- The attacker could access sensitive company data, such as financial records, customer information, intellectual property and trade secrets. They could exfiltrate this data to sell on the dark web, use it for corporate espionage, or manipulate it to cause disruption or financial loss.
- They could use domain admin access to deploy malware or ransomware across the organization’s systems.
- A savvy attacker could create hidden backdoors within the network, allowing them to maintain persistent access and potentially evade detection. These backdoors can be used for ongoing data exfiltration, system monitoring or future attacks.
- The malicious actor could use their privileged access to sabotage the company’s infrastructure intentionally, for example, deleting critical data, disabling essential services or corrupting system configurations.
- The attacker could even elevate their privileges further or create additional privileged accounts, allowing them to gain access to more sensitive systems and data.
What is Zero Trust and Least Privilege Access?
Now that you have clearly articulated the potential risks of unauthorized access to privileged accounts, it’s important to describe the techniques used to protect them.
Zero trust is a security framework that shifts the traditional security model from implicit trust towards a “never trust, always verify” approach. The main concept behind zero trust is that organizations should not automatically trust any entity, whether it’s inside or outside their network perimeter.
Least privileged access, also known as the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP), dictates that users, applications, and systems should only be granted the minimum level of access or permissions necessary to perform their assigned tasks or functions. By limiting access rights and permissions, the potential damage from security breaches is minimized.
When making a business case for a PAM deployment, it may be beneficial to reframe these rather technical concepts by focusing on how implementing them could benefit the organization. For example:
Reduced attack surface: By minimizing the number of users with elevated privileges and limiting access to sensitive resources, a zero-trust security framework can reduce the prevalence of targets for cybercriminals, making it more difficult for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities or gain unauthorized access.
Minimized insider threats: Restricting access rights via a zero-trust security framework helps prevent privilege abuse by users who may have malicious intent or are disgruntled employees. A zero-trust approach also reduces the risk of accidental misuse of privileges, which could lead to security incidents.
Containment of breaches: If an attacker compromises a user account in an organization that uses PoLP access controls, they will have limited access rights, making it more challenging to move laterally within the network, access sensitive data or inflict widespread damage.
Simplified compliance: Many regulatory standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA and PCI DSS, require organizations to implement proper access controls and management. PoLP helps organizations meet these requirements by ensuring that users only have the necessary permissions for their roles.
The Value of a PAM Solution
The final step in crafting the business case for a PAM deployment involves articulating how PAM can be used to implement a zero-trust security framework and enforce the principle of least privilege.
- How PAM establishes a zero-trust framework
PAM establishes a zero-trust framework by prompting continuous verification for all of an organization’s passwords, secrets and privileged connections.
In turn, the zero-trust model gives IT administrators — and the enterprise — full visibility into the activity of all users on all systems and devices. That helps ensure compliance with industry and regulatory mandates and helps prevent cyber attacks caused by compromised user credentials.
- How PAM enforces least privileged access
PAM eliminates unnecessary privileges that could be exploited by malicious insiders or bad actors outside the organization. By automating the configuration of privileged accounts, as well as providing continuous monitoring, management and reporting on their activity, PAM ensures only authorized users have access to privileged accounts at any given time.
Handling Common PAM Objections With a Next-Gen Solution
PAM solutions establish a zero-trust framework and enforce least privileged access, limiting the likelihood of a data breach and minimizing its impact, if one were to occur. However, for the many advantages PAM provides to enterprise security, many legacy solutions are cost-prohibitive.
But PAM doesn’t have to overrun the IT budget, engage professional services or be difficult in order to deliver value. Keeper Security delivers next-gen PAM — a simple PAM solution through an agentless, zero-trust cloud architecture, meaning organizations can quickly deploy privileged access capabilities.
Interested in how KeeperPAM™ would work for your organization? Talk to one of our cybersecurity experts today.