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How The Top 21% Of PAM-Mature Enterprises Are Thwarting Privileged Credential Breaches

  • Energy, Technology & Finance are the most mature industries when it comes to Privileged Access Management (PAM) adoption and uses, outscoring peer industries by a wide margin.
  • 58% of organizations do not use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for privileged administrative access to servers, leaving their IT systems and infrastructure exposed to hacking attempts, including unchallenged privileged access abuse.
  • 52% of organizations are using shared accounts for controlling privileged access, increasing the probability of privileged credential abuse.

These and many other fascinating insights are from the recently published Centrify 2019 Zero Trust Privilege Maturity Model Report created in partnership with Techvangelism. You can download a copy of the study here (PDF, 22 pp., no opt-in). Over 1,300 organizations participated in the survey from 11 industries with Technology, Finance, and Healthcare, comprising 50% of all organizations participating. Please see page 4 of the study for additional details regarding the methodology.

What makes this study noteworthy is that it’s the first of its kind to create a Zero Trust Privilege Maturity Model designed to help organizations better understand and define their ability to discover, protect, secure, manage, and provide privileged access. Also, this model can be used to help mature existing security implementations towards one that provides the greatest level of protection of identity, privileged access, and its use.

Key takeaways from the study include the following:

  • The top 21% of enterprises who excel at thwarting privileged credential breaches share a common set of attributes that differentiate them from their peers. Enterprises who most succeed at stopping security breaches have progressed beyond vault- and identity-centric techniques by hardening their environments through the use of centralized management of service and application accounts and enforcing host-based session, file, and process auditing. In short, the most secure organizations globally have reached a level of Privileged Access Management (PAM) maturity that reduces the probability of a breach successfully occurring due to privileged credential abuse.

  • Energy, Technology & Finance are the most mature industries adopting Privileged Access Management (PAM), outscoring peer industries by a wide margin. Government, Education, and Manufacturing are the industries most lagging in their adoption of Zero Trust Privilege (ZTP), making them the most vulnerable to breaches caused by privileged credential abuse. Education and Manufacturing are the most vulnerable industries of all, where it’s common for multiple manufacturing sites to use shared accounts for controlling privileged access. The study found shared accounts for controlling privileged access is commonplace, with 52% of all organizations reporting this occurring often. Presented below are the relative levels of Zero Trust Privilege Maturity by demographics, with the largest organizations having the most mature approaches to ZTP, which is expected given the size and scale of their IT and cybersecurity departments.

  • 51% of organizations do not control access to transformational technologies with privileged access, including modern attack surfaces such as cloud workloads (38%), Big Data projects (65%), and containers (50%). Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Bots and Internet of Things (IoT) are two of the most vulnerable threat surfaces according to the 1,300 organizations surveyed. Just 16% of organizations have implemented a ZTP strategy to protect their AI/Bots technologies, and just 25% have implemented them for IoT. The graphic below compares usage or plans by transformational technologies.

  • 58% of organizations aren’t using MFA for server login, and 25% have no plans for a password vault, two areas that are the first steps to defining a Privileged Access Management (PAM) strategy. Surprisingly, 26% do not use and do not plan to use MFA for server login, while approximately 32% do plan to use MFA for server logins. Organizations are missing out on opportunities to significantly harden their security posture by adopting password vaults and implementing MFA across all server logins. These two areas are essential for implementing a ZTP framework.

Conclusion

To minimize threats – both external and internal – Privileged Access Management needs to go beyond the fundamental gateway-based model and look to encompass host-enforced privileged access that addresses every means by which the organization leverages privileged credentials. With just 21% of organizations succeeding with mature Zero Trust Privilege deployments, 79% are vulnerable to privileged credential abuse-based breaches that are challenging to stop. Privileged credentials are the most trusted in an organization, allowing internal and external hackers the freedom to move throughout networks undetected. That’s why understanding where an organization is on the spectrum of ZTP maturity is so important, and why the findings from the Centrify and Techvangelism 2019 Zero Trust Privilege Maturity Model Report are worth noting and taking action on.

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