How PAM can help against insider threats

How PAM can help against insider threats

May 18, 2021 Security by Chris Soh

Insider threats take many forms. Some are malicious agents looking for financial gain. Others are simply careless or unaware employees who click on suspicious links.

An insider threat can be defined as someone close to an organization, with authorized access, improperly using that access to negatively impact the organization’s critical information or systems.

Insider threats have the potential to do major damage to a company’s cybersecurity. One way to defend it against insider threats is by focusing on controlling privileged access.

In this article, we talk about some ways that PAM (Privileged Access Management) assists companies against cyber risks associated with insider threats.

Keep reading and learn about the possibilities of reducing the impacts of insider threats with Privileged Access Management.

Cyber risks associated with insider threats

Insider threats are not always exclusively people who work directly for your organization. We can include consultants, outsourced contractors, suppliers, and anyone who has legitimate access to some of your resources.

To understand more about the subject, we have selected five possible scenarios in which insider threats can arise.

  • An employee or third party who performs inappropriate actions that are not intentionally malicious, they are just careless. Often, these people look for ways to do their jobs, but they misuse the assets, do not follow acceptable usage policies, and install unauthorized or dubious applications.
  • A partner or third party that compromises security through negligence, misuse, or malicious access or use of an asset. For example, a system administrator may incorrectly configure a server or database, making it open to the public instead of private and with controlled access, inadvertently exposing confidential information.
  • An agent bribed or requested by a third party to extract information and data. People under financial stress are often the main targets.
  • A rejected or dissatisfied employee is motivated to bring down an organization from the inside, disrupting business and destroying or altering data.
  • A person with legitimate privileged access to corporate assets, who seeks to exploit them for personal gain, usually stealing and redirecting information.

Whether the damage is caused intentionally or accidentally, the consequences of insider attacks are very real.

One of the ways to mitigate the risks of the scenarios above is to implement monitoring tools to track who accessed which files and alert administrators about unusual activities.

In addition to these actions, the management of privileged accounts also helps to reduce damage caused by insider threats and contributes to proactive cybersecurity behavior.

PAM and Privileged Accounts

Privileged accounts are those with elevated access permission that allow account holders to access critical systems and perform administrative or privileged tasks. Like ordinary user accounts, privileged accounts also require a password to access systems and perform tasks.

 Privileged accounts can be used by people or be non-human when used by applications or systems. The latter are also called service accounts. Privileged accounts, such as administrative accounts, are often used by system administrators to manage applications and hardware, such as network assets, and databases.

The problem with these accounts is that they are often shared, used on many systems, and can use weak or standard passwords, making it easier for insider agents to work.

Thus, when these accounts are not properly managed, they give insider agents the ability to access and download the organization’s most sensitive data, distribute malicious software, bypass existing security controls, and delete trails to hide their activities in audits.

One of the most secure ways to manage privileged accounts is through PAM (Privileged Access Management) solutions. This solution consists of cybersecurity strategies and technologies to exercise control over privileged access and permissions for users, accounts, processes, and systems in a corporate environment.

Check below how PAM solutions are important allies to reduce cyber risks associated with insider threats.

PAM and Insider Threats

As mentioned, privileged accounts represent high-value targets for insider agents.

Organizations need to adopt a Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution and also provide data on access to privileged accounts for this solution in their monitoring systems.

Therefore, we selected 7 resources present in the PAM solutions that are strategic for those companies that seek to reduce the possibilities of insider threats.

  • Use of effective policies for all employees, whether remote, service providers or third parties.
  • Protection for the credentials of your most confidential assets (confidential applications, databases, privileged accounts, and other critical systems) in a central and secure repository.
  • Limitation of privileged access to confidential information, such as customer data, personally identifiable information, trade secrets, intellectual property, and confidential financial data.
  • Least privilege procedures and resources to provide employees with just the access they need. This is what we call need-to-know.
  • Limitation of local administrator rights for all employees’ workstations; and implementation of permission, restriction, and denial policies to block malicious applications.
  • Implementation of workflows for the creation and governance of privileged accounts.
  • Monitoring and recording of privileged access to confidential information, data, and systems.

That is, the first steps to better protect yourself and your customers from insider threats consist of applying at least some privileged access management best practices.

Start by learning more about how the principle of least privilege works, then it is important to establish and apply the best password management practices and, finally, invest in a comprehensive PAM solution that has all these resources at your disposal.

senhasegura is a PAM solution that has granular access controls, credential management, detailed logging and session recording, and the ability to analyze user behavior.

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