Protect the Keys to Your Kingdom With Privileged Access Management

December 7, 2018
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3 min read

The importance of implementing privileged access management (PAM) is undeniable. A user with privileged access holds the keys to the kingdom, access to the highly valuable and confidential information that is often targeted by cybercriminals and malicious insiders. In fact, Gartner listed PAM as the No. 1 project for security teams to explore in 2018.

“This project is intended to make it harder for attackers to access privileged accounts and should allow security teams to monitor behaviors for unusual access,” Gartner advises.

PAM tools are critically important and must work together with identity governance, authentication, and application, network and cloud security. But how are organizations doing with actually implementing PAM solutions?

Thycotic, a PAM provider and partner of IBM Security, released its “2018 Global State of Privileged Access Management Risk and Compliance” report earlier this year. The report revealed that privileged credentials are at great risk due to inadequate policies, poorly executed process and insufficient controls. There are major risk and compliance gaps in how organizations manage and secure their privileged accounts and access to sensitive systems, infrastructure and data. While most organizations acknowledge the important role PAM plays in their cybersecurity posture, a shocking 70 percent of organizations would fail an access controls audit, putting their privileged credentials at high risk.

Where Do You Stand With Privileged Access Management?


Organizations understand the value of privileged access management (PAM). In fact, Gartner listed it as the top information security project for 2018. The problem is that knowledge doesn’t always translate to effective implementation. A recent Thycotic report noted that “privileged credentials are at great risk due to inadequate policies, poorly executed process and insufficient controls.”


Are you looking to improve your PAM strategy? Take our quiz to discover where companies are coming up short and learn from their mistakes.

How many companies would pass an access control audit with current PAM deployments?

When it comes to account discovery, what percent of companies find everything on their network?

Seventy-three percent of businesses are ________ privileged accounts before moving apps into production?

When employees leave, privileged access shouldn’t leave with them. But how many companies actually revoke access?

Privileged access management must extend to all users, regardless of location or role. Still, 70 percent of companies fail to limit access for what type of privileged accounts?

Access data matters. So how many companies are tracking failed login attempts and alerting IT?

Despite emerging alternatives, passwords remain the access method of choice for organizations — but most aren’t storing them securely. Instead, they’re using:

Companies are struggling with effective privileged access management adoption. So what’s the solution?



Ouch — might be time for a refresher on PAM best practices.



This matches most corporate PAM success rates. A little work to strengthen your approach and you’ll see a big improvement.



Solid score. Make a few tweaks, and your PAM deployment will be poised for success.



Congrats, you’re a PAM rock star! Your privileged access management strategy is on the right track.






Establish Consistent Access Control Processes

Organizations must develop consistent processes when granting access for employees to handle privileged accounts and passwords securely. This ensures that access is gained properly for privileged users. Without implementing consistent, repeatable access control processes, such as rotating passwords, enabling and revoking access, and making it easier to create risk and compliance reports, the organization is at risk.

As stated in the Thycotic report, 70 percent of organizations fail to fully discover privileged accounts, and 40 percent do nothing at all to discover these accounts. You cannot secure and manage what you do not know you have. Privileged accounts are often unknown, unmanaged and unprotected due to manual processes or error. There must be an established privileged account discovery process in place.

Audit and Track User Behavior

As Gartner noted, security teams should be able to monitor user behavior for unusual access. This is crucial, especially when it comes to privileged access. According to the Thycotic report, 63 percent of organizations do not track and alert on failed login attempts for privileged accounts.

All critical systems should have full audit logs to track logins and activities. Access to audit logs should be restricted, and they should be checked regularly and monitored for changes. Without auditing and tracking, there is no accountability for who is using these accounts and no way to properly analyze an incident and mitigate its damage.

Take Control of Your Privileged Access Management

Don’t get left in the dust. Build a proactive PAM program that doesn’t fall short on policies, processes and controls. A leading privileged access management solution should protect privileged accounts from cybercriminals and insider threats, help ensure compliance with evolving regulations, and give authorized employees access to the tools and information they need to drive productivity. Lastly, it should protect privileged accounts from misuse and enable organizations to enforce least privilege policies and control applications to reduce their attack surface.

Learn more about IBM Security Privilege Manager

Katherine Cola
Product Marketing Manager, IBM
Katherine Cola is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.