Why CIOs Are Prioritizing Privileged Credential Abuse Now
Enterprise security approaches based on Zero Trust continue to gain more mindshare as organizations examine their strategic priorities. CIOs and senior management teams are most focused on securing infrastructure, DevOps, cloud, containers, and Big Data projects to stop the leading cause of breaches, which is privileged access abuse.
Based on insights gained from advisory sessions with CIOs and senior management teams, Forrester estimates that 80% of data breaches have a connection to compromised privileged credentials, such as passwords, tokens, keys, and certificates. In another survey completed by Centrify, 74% of IT decision makers surveyed whose organizations have been breached in the past, say it involved privileged access abuse. Furthermore, 65% of organizations are still sharing root or privileged access to systems and data at least somewhat often. Centrify’s survey, Privileged Access Management in the Modern Threatscape, is downloadable here.
The following are the key reasons why CIOs are prioritizing privileged access management now:
- Identities are the new security perimeter for any business, making privileged access abuse the greatest challenge CIOs face in keeping their businesses secure and growing. Gartner also sees privileged credential abuse as the greatest threat to organizations today, and has made Privileged Account Management one of the Gartner Top 10 Security Projects for 2018, and again in 2019. Forrester and Gartner’s findings and predictions reflect the growing complexity of threatscapes every CIO must protect their business against while still enabling new business growth. Banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) CIOs often remark in my conversations with them that the attack surfaces in their organizations are proliferating at a pace that quickly scales beyond any trust but verify legacy approach to managing access. They need to provide applications, IoT-enabled devices, machines, cloud services, and human access to a broader base of business units than ever before.
- CIOs are grappling with the paradox of protecting the rapidly expanding variety of attack surfaces from breaches while still providing immediate access to applications, systems, and services that support their business’ growth. CIOs I’ve met with also told me access to secured resources needs to happen in milliseconds, especially to support the development of new banking, financial services, and insurance applications in beta testing today, scheduled to be launched this summer. Their organizations’ development teams expect more intuitive, secure, and easily accessible applications than ever before, which is driving CIOs to prioritize privileged access management now
- Adapting and risk-scoring every access attempt in real-time is key to customer experiences on new services and applications, starting with response times. CIOs need a security strategy that can flex or adapt to risk contexts in real-time, assessing every access attempt across every threat surface and generating a risk score in milliseconds. The CIOs I’ve met with regularly see a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to security as the future of how they’ll protect every threat surface from privileged access abuse. Each of their development teams is on tight deadlines to get new services launch to drive revenue in Q3. Designing in Zero Trust with a strong focus on Zero Trust Privilege is saving valuable development time now and is enabling faster authentication times of the apps and services in testing today.
Strategies For Stopping Privileged Credential Abuse – Part 2
Recently I wrote a CIO’s Guide To Stopping Privileged Access Abuse – Part 1 detailing five recommended strategies for CIOs on how to stop privileged credential abuse. The first five strategies focus on the following: discovering and inventorying all privileged accounts; vaulting all cloud platforms’ Root Accounts; auditing privileged sessions and analyzing patterns to find privileged credential sharing not found during audits; enforcing least privilege access now within your existing infrastructure as much as possible; and adopting multi-factor authentication (MFA) across all threat surfaces that can adapt and flex to the risk context of every request for resources.
The following are the second set of strategies CIOs need to prioritize to further protect their organizations from privileged access abuse:
- After completing an inventory of privileged accounts, create a taxonomy of them by assigning users to each class or category, personalizing privileged credential access to the role and entitlement level for each. CIOs tell me this is a major time saver in scaling their Privileged Access Management (PAM) strategies. Assigning every human, machine and sensor-based identity is the goal with the overarching objective being the creation of a Zero Trust-based enterprise security strategy. Recommended initial classes or categories include IT administrators who are also responsible for endpoint security; developers who require occasional access to production instances; service desk teams and service operations; the Project Management Office (PMO) and project IT; and external contractors and consultants.
- By each category in the taxonomy, automate the time, duration, scope, resources, and entitlements of privileged access for each focusing on the estimated time to complete each typical task. Defining a governance structure that provides real-time access to resources based on successful authentication is a must-have for protecting privileged access credentials. By starting with the attributes of time, duration, scope and properties, organizations have a head start on creating a separation of duties (SOD) model. Separation of duties is essential for ensuring that privileged user accounts don’t have the opportunity to carry out and conceal any illegal or unauthorized activities.
- Using the taxonomy of user accounts created and hardened using the separation of duties model, automate privileged access and approval workflows for enterprise systems. Instead of having administrators approve or semi-automate the evaluation of every human- and machine-based request for access, consider automating the process with a request and approval workflow. With time, duration, scope, and properties of privileged access already defined human- and machine-based requests for access to IT systems and services are streamlined, saving hundreds of hours a year and providing a real-time log for audit and data analysis later.
- Break-glass, emergency or firecall account passwords need to be vaulted, with no exceptions. When there’s a crisis of any kind, the seconds it takes to get a password could mean the difference between cloud instances and entire systems being inaccessible or not. That’s why administrators often only manually secure root passwords to all systems, cloud platforms and containers included. This is the equivalent of leaving the front door open to the data center with all systems unlocked. The recent Centrify survey found that just 48% of organizations interviewed have a password vault. 52% are leaving the keys to the kingdom available for hackers to walk through the front door of data centers and exfiltraticate data whenever they want.
- Continuous delivery and deployment platforms including Ansible, Chef, Puppet, and others need to be configured when first installed to eliminate the potential for privileged access abuse. The CIOs whose teams are creating new apps and services are using Chef and Puppet to design and create workloads, with real-time integration needed with customer, pricing, and services databases and the systems they run on. Given how highly regulated insurance is, CIOs are saying they need to have logs that show activity down to the API level in case of an audit. The more regulated and audited a company, the more trusted and untrusted domains are seen as the past, Zero Trust as the future based on CIO’s feedback.
The CIOs I regularly meet with from the banking, financial services, and insurance industries are under pressure to get new applications and services launched while protecting their business’ daily operations. With more application and services development happening in their IT teams, they’re focusing on how they can optimize the balance between security and speed. New apps, services, and the new customers they attract are creating a proliferation of new threat surfaces, making every new identity the new security perimeter.