When you think of access, passwords are likely the first thing that pops into your head. While passwords are a large and important part of managing access, there are other aspects to consider as well. Using the full spectrum offered by Privileged Access Management (PAM) can help.
It’s easy to focus on the glitzier sides of cybersecurity. However, if you aren’t properly managing credentials and access, your business is at risk from attacks. According to Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, the vast majority of cybersecurity issues (80%) are related to credentials that are typically either stolen or weak.
What Is PAM?
PAM is a strategic approach to who has privileged access to the network — including infrastructure and apps — and then purposely managing that access. Most of the time, this involves using a single point of sign-on for users and a single point of management for admins.
While access often refers to users, PAM also covers apps and processes. Each of these must access different areas of the network and other apps to perform its function.
The term PAM refers to both the tools used for privileged access management and the process. Purchasing a PAM solution is the first step. The next: to put the PAM processes into place surrounding the tool.
Often, businesses and agencies use the principle of least privilege. This grants each user, device and app only the bare minimum access needed for business purposes. By using this approach, they limit who has access to privileged areas, which reduces risk.
Many groups combine PAM with zero trust. That means needing verification for every access request and assuming that each request is invalid. Because both approaches have similar principles, the strategies work well together.
Benefits of Privileged Access Management
Businesses that implement PAM will see numerous benefits, including the following:
Improved visibility – With PAM, you know in real-time who has accessed every network, server, application and device — without high-risk or high-maintenance manual spreadsheets. By tracking session times, you can ensure vendors and contractors provide accurate time sheets.
You can see who is attempting to access unauthorized areas, and even set up alerts, which can provide clues to a potential insider attack. By using artificial intelligence-based PAM tools, you can also receive alerts when users are not following their typical behavior to also spot possible compromised credentials.
Improved compliance – Many industries, such as health care and finance, must maintain compliance with least privileged access to comply with regulations. By using privileged access management, you can reduce your risk in an audit and more easily prove compliance.
Increased productivity – Most PAM tools use automation to perform what have historically been manual tasks, such as password creation and password vaulting. This saves a lot of time.
Because the tools and the structured process reduce human error, your IT team spends less time correcting issues. In addition, your employees spend less time managing their own passwords and access.
This also helps while many companies are moving to hybrid work. PAM prevents access issues when logging in from multiple locations and devices.
Integration across your environment – A common issue with cybersecurity is inadvertently creating silos, which add new issues to the process. With privileged access management, you can easily integrate your processes and tools across the group.
By selecting apps that integrate with your systems, you can even use a single dashboard for management. You can then create detailed reports from a single tool.
Reduced malware attacks – Attackers often launch malware attacks by gaining access to a privileged account, such as that of an admin. Doing so allows the harmful code to spread much more quickly because of the wide access the account provides.
More securely controlling access and limiting access to only business means an attack can’t spread as much.
Reduced attacks by terminated employees – Often, former employees used old credentials to gain access. These can be challenging to spot — and often harmful.
PAM gives you a built-in process for shutting down access when an employee leaves the company. If an attack does happen, the privileged access management provides insight into the actions right away. That can help you access any damage and begin to recover.
By using PAM and taking the time to focus on the basics, you can reduce risk while also working more efficiently.
Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a freelance B2B technology content marketing writer specializing in cybersecurity. Other areas of focus include B2B, finance, tec...