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How Organizations Can Execute an Effective PAM Strategy?

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Privileged access management (PAM) is the combination of tools and technology used to secure, control and monitor access to an organization’s critical information and resources. Subcategories of PAM include shared access password management, privileged session management, vendor privileged access management (VPAM) and application access management.

Why is PAM important?

Implementing a PAM system helps organizations effectively monitor the entire network and provides insight into which users have access to what data.

PAM is critical because privileged accounts can pose major security risks to businesses. For example, a cybercriminal who compromises a standard user account will only have access to that specific user’s information. But a hacker who compromises a privileged user account will have far greater access and possibly the power to destroy systems.

In addition to combating external attacks, PAM can help companies combat threats — either malicious or inadvertent — originating from employees and other internal people with access to corporate data.

PAM is also key to achieve compliance with industry and government regulations. With PAM as part of a complete security and risk management program, enterprises can record and log every activity related to their critical information technology (IT) infrastructures and sensitive corporate data, helping to simplify audit and compliance requirements.

PAM software and tools work by gathering the credentials of privileged accounts, also known as system administrator accounts, into a secure repository to isolate their use and log their activity. The separation is intended to lower the risk of admin credentials being stolen or misused. Some PAM platforms do not allow privileged users to choose their own passwords. Instead, the password manager of the platform will tell admins what the password is for a given day or issue one-time passwords each time an admin logs in.

PAM strategy for data protection

  1. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add a layer of protection to the login process for all accounts. This feature will provide the tremendous benefit of limiting the threat of unauthorized parties stealing or leveraging any account, particularly privileged accounts, and doing harm.

  2. Apply a least-privileged access or restricted access to complete task approach for accounts to minimize exposure from malicious attacks, improve auditability and reduce overall risk and impact to the overall business operations and technical environment. Furthermore, consider the use of application whitelisting or an allowed list to provide an additional layer of protection to access a particular system privilege, service, or function.

  3. Protect privileged credentials for use with third-party applications for on-premise or cloud-based solutions through native or third-party key vault solutions.

  4. Eliminate use of hardcoded credentials to be used in any system, application interfaces or related systematic login processing.

  5. Perform periodic vulnerability assessments and at least annually conduct penetration tests to identify improperly protected or suspicious accounts on the IT infrastructure.

  6. Train all employees routinely on cybersecurity practices and awareness to have the most current and relevant information on account protection and use.

  7. Regularly and routinely review audit trails and logs for suspicious behavior and activities performed by privileged user accounts.

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