Protecting Privileged Identity in Cloud Environments

November 3, 2014
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2 min read

You already know that moving enterprise applications to the cloud can help your organization cut information technology (IT) costs and improve responsiveness. Along with the usual security concerns, however, another issue is how to secure and monitor user entitlements and access activities within the cloud environment, especially privileged accounts.

Privileged identity management (PIM) is one security component you won’t want to overlook when designing and implementing your own cloud infrastructure. Cloud computing requires a delicate balance between the desire to share online resources with multiple user populations and the need to protect those resources from unauthorized access, data leakage and other exposures. When those users have the elevated access powers of the typical system administrator or other privileged account, the security risk is even higher. It just takes one malicious or careless privileged insider to take over your enterprise or steal precious data. To reduce the risk of these insider threats, you must be able to control, monitor and report on who is accessing sensitive resources within the cloud and for what purpose.

Cloud workloads such as infrastructure-, platform- or software-as-a-service make it difficult to manage an exploding set of system administrators whether they are employed by your organization, the cloud provider or an outsourced third party. Distributed workloads require more stringent and robust security controls. Privileged identity management solutions can manage and control privileged account access to critical cloud resources by your organization’s employees and/or personnel who work for cloud providers. If you don’t implement a PIM solution up front, you’ll find it very difficult and complex to manage privileged user passwords and access activities within your cloud environment. Remember, you not only have to manage the privileged accounts of your own organization but also those of every partner and cloud provider that has access to your IT infrastructure and/or hosts your sensitive data.

Privileged Identity Management and Insider Threats

Not only do PIM solutions help mitigate security risk in cloud environments and boost your compliance initiatives, but they can also help reduce insider threats by highlighting unusual and/or inappropriate behaviors of on-premise privileged users as well. If you already have a PIM solution in place to manage your on-premise infrastructures, you may want to see whether it can help secure your cloud workloads and hosted data, as well. With the additional foresight and protection provided by your PIM solution, you can maintain effective security controls and thwart malicious insiders across your virtual environment.

Regardless of which applications or information you decide to move to the cloud, a solid identity and access management (IAM) solution can lead the way. Implementing strong PIM capabilities will enable your firm to protect sensitive assets while complying with industry regulations for privacy and security within a cloud infrastructure.

IAM offers tangible benefits for improved user productivity while reducing the risk of security breaches. A scalable, standards-based IAM solution can encompass both cloud and traditional computing environments so you do not have to manage two sets of credentials, which improves efficiency and saves money.

Veronica Shelley
WW Market Segment Manager, IBM Security

Veronica Shelley is the worldwide marketing manager for the IBM Security Identity and Access Management (IAM) portfolio. She is a dedicated advocate for peo...
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