We deal with a lot of complex topics here, and our goal is always to clarify them. Privledged Access Management, or PAM for short, is one of the topics we believe all of our partners should be well-versed on no matter their line of work.
This PAM isn’t the cooking spray or the receptionist from all of our favorite OG workplace comedy. Nor is it Pamm or Pamn, as the Step Brothers may have you believe. Privileged Access Management instead is an important tool that helps companies prevent, or at least mitigate, the damage arising from external attacks as well as from insider negligence.
And in a time when reports are indicating nearly 80% of companies have had to use their cyber insurance, and more than half of those have used it multiple times, there is no better time to leverage each of the tools at your organization’s disposal. So let’s jump right in and discover:
What is privileged access?
Take a look at your desktop. You very, very likely have applications on your computer that require access, right? And not just any-old, run-of-the-mill password protection either, but specific log-ins and back doors for your organization’s most important apps, things that keep the people around you up and running at all times.
Privileged access points are specially designated permissions that are above and beyond the standard user’s abilities on any given program. Think of it as similar to a key card to get you in a special door in the back room, or a password to get into a swanky club. Whatever the information is that’s being kept safe, it’s always up to a limited number of people that are performing sensitive operations with their access.
To manage these types of access points is to first understand what you are even protecting. Some examples of these kinds of privileged accounts includes:
- Local administrative accounts: Non-personal accounts providing administrative access to the local host or instance only.
- Domain administrative accounts: Privileged administrative access across all workstations and servers within the domain.
- Break glass (also called emergency or firecall) accounts: Unprivileged users with administrative access to secure systems in the case of an emergency.
- Service account: Privileged local or domain accounts that are used by an application or service to interact with the operating system.
- Active Directory or domain service accounts: Enable password changes to accounts, etc.
- Application accounts: Used by applications to access databases, run batch jobs or scripts, or provide access to other applications.
As you can see, these are some pretty heavy hitters when it comes to what makes your business tick. And with a major lack of visibility to these privileged users, accounts, assests, and credentials, your long-forgotten accounts can come under attack by those looking to cause some major damage. These accounts may number in the millions, and provide numerous opportunities for attackers.
Another common problem is the over-provisioning of privileges. When privileged access controls are overly restrictive, they can disrupt user workflows which in turn causes frustration and hinders productivity. Yuck. While end users rarely complain about possessing too many privileges – what does that even mean to most people? – IT admins sometimes give end users broad sets of privileges they likely don’t even need, let alone use.
It's become way too easy for attackers to obtain high level account credentials, and it's too hard to discover these attacks after the fact, especially when the goal is to stop them from even happening.
Here’s the super short version: Cyber criminals want in, and if your people have too much access to things they don’t need or use, those cyber criminals will have many ways to compromise your business. PAM stops that from happening by ending unnecessary connections and managing the rest.
The goal of PAM is to reduce opportunities for malicious users to get access, while increasing your control and awareness of the environment.
“Bam!” - Emeril Lagasse
How PAM connects to cyber insurance
Insurance companies are fickle in a lot of ways, but straight forward in many others. Their goal is to protect you in the case of an accident, right? Well, just like wearing your seatbelt, there are plenty of ways for you to increase your odds of safety that make those insurance companies very happy – to the point where they give you breaks for doing so.
Last year, 212.4 million businesses were affected by cyberattacks of some kind. That makes cyber insurance companies very worried about what may happen to you and your business, and understandably so. But much like how Multi-Factor Authentication can help reduce the risk of your business falling under attack from cyber criminals, PAM similarly can make a major difference.
Of note, cyber insurance typically covers first-party expenses, third-party expenses, and cybercrime cost but with the rise in cybercrime the cost of coverage has similarly grown 130% in Q4 2021 alone.
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PAM is an information security mechanism that protects your identities with restricted access or capabilities beyond those regular users have. Essentially, PAM helps ensure that users only have access to the resources they need to get their jobs done. It affords organizations the opportunity to manage access for better visibility and control, plus it allows them to verify everything before granting access to data.
At the end of the day, it comes down to security, IT administration efficiency, compliance, and business agility, and PAM covers it all for you in a strong way. Insurance underwriters across the country continually look for PAM controls when pricing cyber policies for their clients. The underwriters also look for ways your organization is discovering and securely managing privileged credentials, plus how they are monitoring those accounts and the means they have to isolate and audit privileged sessions.
PAM helps organizations comply with GDPR, NIS, PCI DSS and other regulations, too.
Whew, that’s a lot. But it’s all important!
Protect your most sensitive data and access points through a rigid Privileged Access Management system at your organization. And PAM (again, not the receptionist) doesn’t just keep you safe, it saves you money in the short and long term by lowering insurance premiums and preventing possible disaster.
Interested in Privileged Access Management but don't know where to start? Give us a call at (864) 552-1291 and we'll help you evaluate capabilities and options. Also, sign up for PTG Tech Talk for bi-monthly tech news, and consider following us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter!