A potential security risk lurks within every business, from the extensive enterprise computer network to the small business with a handful of synced desktops and laptops. This security hole can be attributed to administrator credentials. Plugging the hole is challenging because administrator accounts and their access credentials are essential to the security of the network. Still, they are often ignored.

Malicious or careless insiders can easily use administrator privileges to gain unlimited access to the network. Cybercriminals, who know all about administrator credentials, can crack weak or standardized administrator passwords to break into your system.

The Irony of Securing Administrator Credentials

The irony of this security risk is that administrator accounts were first developed as a basic security precaution against both user error and malicious intrusion. Most users do not need to perform system maintenance tasks such as installing software patches or modifying internal permissions, and they are usually happy to be relieved of the worry of accidentally causing system damage. Privileged administrator accounts shield most users from these complications and limit administrator powers to specific, trusted users.

But according to Infosec Island, administrator accounts and their credentials have proliferated in modern networks. A PC’s local operating system has an administrator account and password, but many network functions and services also have their own administrator credentials. As a result, it can be “tedious to locate, let alone update, all the local administrator accounts. And that doesn’t include the accounts used by tasks, services and COM objects on machines throughout the network. Consequently, many of these updates are never done,” InfoSec Island noted.

Worst of all, these network service administrator credentials are often given default factory settings that are never changed. The IT team may not even know that they exist.

Minimizing the Risk

Because this security risk takes multiple forms, several strategies must work in concert to protect against it. To minimize risks from insiders, organizations should disable computer ports for flash drives or CD-ROM drives whenever their use is not actually required.

Administrator passwords should be changed regularly. This is good practice for all passwords, but because administrator credentials are rarely used, it is all too easy to forget about them. Commercial tools for privileged identity management can automate the process of finding and managing those little-used administrator accounts. Still, the crucial first step in getting a handle on this security challenge is being aware that it exists across multiple administrator accounts.

More from Identity & Access

Cybersecurity in the Next-Generation Space Age, Pt. 3: Securing the New Space

View Part 1, Introduction to New Space, and Part 2, Cybersecurity Threats in New Space, in this series. As we see in the previous article of this series discussing the cybersecurity threats in the New Space, space technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate — with new technologies being launched into orbit at an increasingly rapid pace. The need to ensure the security and safety of these technologies has never been more pressing. So, let’s discover a range of measures…

Backdoor Deployment and Ransomware: Top Threats Identified in X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023

Deployment of backdoors was the number one action on objective taken by threat actors last year, according to the 2023 IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index — a comprehensive analysis of our research data collected throughout the year. Backdoor access is now among the hottest commodities on the dark web and can sell for thousands of dollars, compared to credit card data — which can go for as low as $10. On the dark web — a veritable eBay for…

Kronos Malware Reemerges with Increased Functionality

The Evolution of Kronos Malware The Kronos malware is believed to have originated from the leaked source code of the Zeus malware, which was sold on the Russian underground in 2011. Kronos continued to evolve and a new variant of Kronos emerged in 2014 and was reportedly sold on the darknet for approximately $7,000. Kronos is typically used to download other malware and has historically been used by threat actors to deliver different types of malware to victims. After remaining…

An IBM Hacker Breaks Down High-Profile Attacks

On September 19, 2022, an 18-year-old cyberattacker known as "teapotuberhacker" (aka TeaPot) allegedly breached the Slack messages of game developer Rockstar Games. Using this access, they pilfered over 90 videos of the upcoming Grand Theft Auto VI game. They then posted those videos on the fan website GTAForums.com. Gamers got an unsanctioned sneak peek of game footage, characters, plot points and other critical details. It was a game developer's worst nightmare. In addition, the malicious actor claimed responsibility for a…