PAM was born before the cloud and answered many on-premises challenges, including preventing credential theft and limiting access. But today’s dynamic cloud environments require new types of human and service identities, permissions, and privileges that your PAM solution may not be equipped to handle.

A comprehensive cloud-based PAM solution can strengthen your cybersecurity against the latest threats. Here’s how.

Identify Privileged Users

Administrators and IT teams use privileged accounts to access and manage IT systems. However, hackers can also use these credentials to map IT infrastructure and jump from system to system, accessing and exfiltrating critical data. Many of the most catastrophic cyber attacks have been linked to privileged account abuse. A recent study found that 74% of breaches involve privileged account abuse.

To prevent this, a comprehensive cloud privileged access management solution will identify privileged users and limit access to sensitive information. This will include securing password vaulting to ensure that passwords are only accessible by those with administrative rights and cannot be stolen or shared. It will also provide secure remote work capabilities to protect employees working from home or on the road. It will also protect production systems by ensuring that access to these critical systems is limited and protected.

When choosing a cloud PAM solution, selecting a vendor that offers the features your organization needs is essential. These include discovery functions, forensic analysis and monitoring, file integrity monitoring, and SSH key management. A professional security assessment can help determine which cloud PAM solutions meet your cybersecurity requirements. You can deploy your PAM solution on-premise, in the cloud (a Privileged Access Management as a Service or PAMaaS), or with a hybrid approach.

Monitor Privileged Access

Privileged access management helps you mitigate the most dangerous cyber threats. Threat actors that gain privileged access to users are far more likely to succeed in stealing data or sabotaging systems than if they gained access to standard user accounts. Those who gain access to a privileged account also have the potential to escalate their privileges to run commands on other accounts.

To prevent this, you need a centralized way to rotate passwords, monitor privileged session activity, and track the use of credentials. However, many IT organizations still need to rely on manual processes that are effective and prone to error when it comes to managing privileged access.

A privileged account monitoring solution should be easy to install, operate and maintain. In addition, it should be capable of detecting abnormal behaviors and protecting against attacks on the network and in the cloud.

This includes discovery tools for human and service accounts and a robust privileged account management (PAM) architecture that can scale as you grow. The best solutions have a modular design that allows you to start small and expand as your needs change without rebuilding the system or going through lengthy integration projects. They also offer expert maintenance for patches, upgrades, and new features to keep your system current and secure.

Restrict Privileged Access

Many high-profile breaches have one thing in common – attackers compromise privileged credentials. This is because these accounts grant greater access than standard user accounts. Often, attackers use privileged accounts to map out IT infrastructure and jump between systems. This is called a “privilege jump” and can expose sensitive information or sabotage systems. The best way to stop this is to have an efficient Privileged Access Management process.

The right PAM solution should include discovery functions that identify every account and password, including shared accounts such as domain administrator or root and local administrative accounts. This is an essential first step for a strong PAM program. You also want to be able to review and disable accounts that are no longer needed quickly. This can help prevent “privilege access creep,” where users gain access to more and more accounts over time.

Finally, you need a robust solution that provides granular privileged access management policies that you can customize for your needs. You also want to ensure your chosen platform can quickly scale for your growing organization. Look for a solution that offers cloud architecture with geo-redundancy, autoscaling and an uptime SLA, and a modular platform so you can begin small and grow as your organization grows without rewriting the solution or changing the configuration.

Automate Privileged Access

Regarding cyber threats, threat actors often target privileged accounts, passwords, and secrets. These accounts can allow them deep and wide access across networks, servers, and databases. They also provide a foothold to sabotage systems and infrastructure. This is why many high-profile breaches have a common denominator: compromised privileged access.

Privileged Access Management solutions help to reduce the attack surface and close cybersecurity vulnerabilities. They provide visibility into all privileged accounts and can automatically create, rotate, distribute, and manage passwords, keys, and APIs for cloud and on-premise applications. This helps organizations enforce a policy of least privilege for all users and eliminate stale accounts that attackers can abuse.

A centralized solution for privileged account management can help organizations automatically provision, de-provision, monitor, and control access to administrator user accounts and elevated privileges. It can also help to secure all CI/CD tools and credentials for DevOps so they are not accessible to untrusted users. It can also protect privileged access to the public cloud and secure all accounts and passwords used for SaaS applications and underlying OS components.

The first step is identifying all the systems and applications that rely on privileged accounts. It is important to classify these according to criticality so that you can prioritize them and implement the proper security controls. For example, a backup system might only need to be accessed at certain times for a scheduled job, or vulnerability scanning and integrity validation might follow a penetration test.

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