Privileged accounts and users are a target for threat actors who are looking for shortcuts into an organization’s IT environment. Since privileged accounts have elevated—and often unrestricted access, their compromise can cause significant damage. 

Privileged access management, or PAM, provides enhanced security and compliance by safeguarding privileged access. It protects your organization by enabling you to monitor, detect, and prevent unauthorized access to critical resources.  

Here are some of the most-common privileged access management use cases and why they’re important. 

Automate user lifecycle. 

Having full visibility across every phase of the user account lifecycle—from account creation and provisioning, to reviews and updates, to deactivation—is often a challenge for organizations. This challenge creates not only blind spots but also inefficiencies due to many overlapping or duplicated processes.  

Automating the user lifecycle streamlines onboarding and off-boarding. It also improves your security posture by providing consistent, automated policy controls, along with more granular visibility. 

For example, you can: 

  • Gain complete view into a user’s access and associated privileged accounts— and help eliminate overentitled users— by automating governance controls 
  • Detect anomalies and policy violations by automating reviews and approvals of privileges 
  • Streamline and accelerate previsioning and deprovisioning by granting, modifying, or revoking access based on user roles and lifecycle event changes 

Monitor and record privileged accounts. 

There’s a reason security practitioner’s describe privileged accounts as the “keys to the kingdom.” Because of their elevated access, along with higher security risks, these accounts required enhanced monitoring. With privileged access monitoring, you gain an extra layer of protection while improving regulatory compliance. 

Monitoring and recording every privileged access session is akin to placing surveillance video cameras in highly secure physical spaces. Monitoring enables you to: 

  • Protect against inside and outside threats: By constantly monitoring who is accessing what, you can detect unauthorized activity and anomalous behavior. 
  • Perform forensic investigations effectively: When investigating security incidents, your security team can use the logs to track security events.  
  • Simplify and streamline compliance auditing: Generating comprehensive compliance reports that various regulations require can be complex and time consuming, and PAM helps you automate this process. 

Least privileged access. 

Implementing a least privileged model is one of the top privileged access management use cases, improving your protection by only giving access that’s absolutely necessary for performing specific functions. Least privileged access greatly reduces your risk of exposure, both to inside and outside threats. 

Least privileged access doesn’t only apply to users and accounts. You can also use the principle to restrict rights for critical applications, computing processes, devices, and systems.  

The benefits of implementing least privileged access include: 

  • Smaller attack surface: You’re condensing the number of ways that threats can enter your environment. 
  • Reduced malware risks: You limit the possibility of malware installation or execution by denying privileges required to carry out a process. 
  • Improved compliance: Some regulations mandate least privileged access, while for others this model creates a more audit-friendly ecosystem. 

PAM streamlines and automates the implementation and management of least privileged access. It gives you the tools for actions such as controlling privilege escalation and delegation. 

Secure remote access. 

In today’s distributed and remote workplace, employees often require remote access to critical systems and data. However, remote access client devices and technologies like virtual private networks have security weaknesses that can be exploited.  

Cyber-attackers often use compromised remote access connections to gain entry into an organization’s IT environment. With more companies adopting remote work, remote access is a growing risk—especially since threat actors adapt their techniques to emerging trends.  

PAM enables you to provide remote access in a more controlled and secure way, as well as to enforce the principle of least privilege access. Regardless of where employees and other end-users connect, PAM secures remote access by allowing you to: 

  • Implement and consistently enforce privileged access controls 
  • Detect and identify anomalous behavior 
  • Automate your provisioning and deprovisioning processes 

Third party access. 

The modern IT ecosystem is complex, and organizations are more interconnected with vendors and partners while also contracting out more roles. This increased reliance on—and privileged access for—third parties create new risks.  

Third-party access is especially a challenge because the environment is dynamic, with ongoing changes as users come and go or change roles, and applications are constantly acquired, moved to the cloud, or retired. 

With PAM, you can secure and control third-party access to your critical assets and resources by: 

  • Automating the workflows throughout the user lifecycle 
  • Implementing and enforcing policy-based controls 
  • Monitoring privileged access activities to detect anomalies and unauthorized access 
  • Setting automatic expiration dates to ensure deactivation of temporary accounts 
  • Restricting access only to resources the vendors or contractors need  

PAM enables you to, essentially, extend your visibility, access controls, and governance to all third parties. Third-party risk has been growing in the last few years, and securing third-party access provides you enhanced protection against data breaches and other threats. 

Final thoughts.  

In addition to these privileged access management use cases, PAM solutions can be extended to devices (including Internet of Things), virtualized and cloud environments, and DevOps projects, among others.

PAM brings numerous benefits to organizations, including enhanced security and compliance, improved productivity, and streamlined operations. PAM solutions not only reduce risks but also provides your IT and security teams tools that reduce admin burdens and allow them to focus on priority projects.  

Integrating privileged access and identity governance adds another layer of protection, as well as further improving efficiencies.  

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