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Posts tagged ‘Privileged Access Management’

How To Excel At Secured Cloud Migrations With A Shared Responsibility Model

How To Excel At Secured Cloud Migrations With A Shared Responsibility Model

  • 60% of security and IT professionals state that security is the leading challenge with cloud migrations, despite not being clear about who is responsible for securing cloud environments.
  • 71% understand that controlling privileged access to cloud service administrative accounts is a critical concern, yet only 53% cite secure access to cloud workloads as a key objective of their cloud Privileged Access Management (PAM) strategies.

These and many other fascinating insights are from the recent Centrify survey, Reducing Risk in Cloud Migrations: Controlling Privileged Access to Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Environments, downloadable here. The survey is based on a survey of over 700 respondents from the United States, Canada, and the UK from over 50 vertical markets, with technology (21%), finance (14%), education (10%), government (10%) and healthcare (9%) being the top five. For additional details on the methodology, please see page 14 of the study.

What makes this study noteworthy is how it provides a candid, honest assessment of how enterprises can make cloud migrations more secure by a better understanding of who is responsible for securing privileged access to cloud administrative accounts and workloads.

Key insights from the study include the following:

  • Improved speed of IT services delivery (65%) and lowered total cost of ownership (54%) are the two top factors driving cloud migrations today. Additional factors include greater flexibility in responding to market changes (40%), outsourcing IT functions that don’t create competitive differentiation (22%), and increased competitiveness (17%). Reducing time-to-market for new systems and applications is one of the primary catalysts driving cloud migrations today, making it imperative for every organization to build security policies and systems into their cloud initiatives.

How To Excel At Secured Cloud Migrations With A Shared Responsibility Model

 

  • Security is the greatest challenge to cloud migration by a wide margin. 60% of organizations define security as the most significant challenge they face with cloud migrations today. One in three sees the cost of migration (35%) and lack of expertise (30%) being the second and third greatest impediments to cloud migration project succeeding. Organizations are facing constant financial and time constraints to achieve cloud migrations on schedule to support time-to-market initiatives. No organization can afford the lost time and expense of an attempted or successful breach impeding cloud migration progress.

How To Excel At Secured Cloud Migrations With A Shared Responsibility Model

  • 71% of organizations are implementing privileged access controls to manage their cloud services. However, as the privilege becomes more task-, role-, or access-specific, there is a diminishing interest of securing these levels of privileged access as a goal, evidenced by only 53% of organizations securing access to the workloads and containers they have moved to the cloud. The following graphic reflects the results.

How To Excel At Secured Cloud Migrations With A Shared Responsibility Model

 

  • An alarmingly high 60% of organizations incorrectly view the cloud provider as being responsible for securing privileged access to cloud workloads. It’s shocking how many customers of AWS and other public cloud providers are falling for the myth that cloud service providers can completely protect their customized, highly individualized cloud instances. The native Identity and Access Management (IAM) capabilities offered by AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and others provide enough functionality to help an organization get up and running to control access in their respective homogeneous cloud environments. Often they lack the scale to adequately address the more challenging, complex areas of IAM and Privileged Access Management (PAM) in hybrid or multi-cloud environments, however. For an expanded discussion of the Shared Responsibility Model, please see The Truth About Privileged Access Security On AWS and Other Public Clouds. The following is a graphic from the survey and Amazon Web Services’ interpretation of the Shared Responsibility Model.

How To Excel At Secured Cloud Migrations With A Shared Responsibility Model

 

  • Implementing a common security model in the cloud, on-premises, and in hybrid environments is the most proven approach to making cloud migrations more secure. Migrating cloud instances securely needs to start with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), deploying a common privileged access security model equivalent to on-premises and cloud systems, and utilizing enterprise directory accounts for privileged access. These three initial steps set the foundation for implementing least privilege access. It’s been a major challenge for organizations to do this, particularly in cloud environments, as 68% are not eliminating local privilege accounts in favor of federated access controls and are still using root accounts outside of “break glass” scenarios. Even more concerning, 57% are not implementing least privilege access to limit lateral movement and enforce just-enough, just-in-time-access.

How To Excel At Secured Cloud Migrations With A Shared Responsibility Model

  • When it comes to securing access to cloud environments, organizations don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Best practices from securing on-premises data centers and workloads can often be successful in securing privileged access in cloud and hybrid environments as well.

Conclusion

The study provides four key takeaways for anyone working to make cloud migrations more secure. First, all organizations need to understand that privileged access to cloud environments is your responsibility, not your cloud providers’. Second, adopt a modern approach to Privileged Access Management that enforces least privilege, prioritizing “just enough, just-in-time” access. Third, employ a common security model across on-premises, cloud, and hybrid environments. Fourth and most important, modernize your security approach by considering how cloud-based PAM systems can help to make cloud migrations more secure.

7 Signs It’s Time To Get Focused On Zero Trust

7 Signs It’s Time To Get Focused On Zero Trust

When an experienced hacker can gain access to a company’s accounting and financial systems in 7 minutes or less after obtaining privileged access credentials, according to Ponemon, it’s time to get focused on Zero Trust Security. 2019 is on its way to being a record year for ransomware attacks, which grew 118% in Q1 of this year alone, according to McAfee Labs Threat Report. Data breaches on healthcare providers reached an all-time high in July of this year driven by the demand for healthcare records that range in price from $250 to over $1,000 becoming best-sellers on the Dark Web. Cybercriminals are using AI, bots, machine learning, and social engineering techniques as part of sophisticated, well-orchestrated strategies to gain access to banking, financial services, healthcare systems, and many other industries’ systems today.

Enterprises Need Greater Urgency Around Zero Trust

The escalating severity of cyberattacks and their success rates are proving that traditional approaches to cybersecurity based on “trust but verify” aren’t working anymore. What’s needed is more of a Zero Trust-based approach to managing every aspect of cybersecurity. By definition, Zero Trust is predicated on a “never trust, always verify” approach to access, from inside or outside the network. Enterprises need to begin with a Zero Trust Privilege-based strategy that verifies who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.

How urgent is it for enterprises to adopt Zero Trust? A recent survey of 2,000 full-time UK workers, completed by Censuswide in collaboration with Centrify, provides seven signs it’s time for enterprises to get a greater sense of urgency regarding their Zero Trust frameworks and initiatives. The seven signs are as follows:

  1. 77% of organizations’ workers admit that they have never received any form of cybersecurity skills training from their employer. In this day and age, it’s mind-blowing that three of every four organizations aren’t providing at least basic cybersecurity training, whether they intend to adopt Zero Trust or not. It’s like freely handing out driver’s licenses to anyone who wants one so they can drive the freeways of Los Angeles or San Francisco. The greater the training, the safer the driver. Likewise, the greater the cybersecurity training, the safer the worker, company and customers they serve.
  2. 69% of employees doubt the cybersecurity processes in place in their organizations today. When the majority of employees don’t trust the security processes in place in an organization, they invent their own, often bringing their favorite security solutions into an enterprise. Shadow IT proliferates, productivity often slows down, and enterprise is more at risk of a breach than ever before. When there’s no governance or structure to managing data, cybercriminals flourish.
  3. 63% of British workers interviewed do not realize that unauthorized access to an email account without the owner’s permission is a criminal offense. It’s astounding that nearly two-thirds of the workers in an organization aren’t aware that unauthorized access to another person’s email account without their permission is a crime. The UK passed into law 30 years ago the Computer Misuse Act. The law was created to protect individuals’ and organizations’ electronic data. The Act makes it a crime to access or modify data stored on a computer without authorization to do so. The penalties are steep for anyone found guilty of gaining access to a computer without permission, starting with up to two years in prison and a £5,000 fine. It’s alarming how high the lack of awareness is of this law, and an urgent call to action to prioritize organization-wide cybersecurity training.
  4. 27% of workers use the same password for multiple accounts. The Consensus survey finds that workers are using identical passwords for their work systems, social media accounts, and both personal and professional e-mail accounts. Cybersecurity training can help reduce this practice, but Zero Trust is badly needed to protect privileged access credentials that may have identical passwords to someone’s Facebook account, for example.
  5. 14% of employees admitted to keeping their passwords recorded in an unsecured handwritten notebook or on their desk in the office.  Organizations need to make it as difficult as possible for bad actors and cybercriminals to gain access to passwords instead of sharing them in handwritten notebooks and on Post-It notes. Any organization with this problem needs to immediately adopt Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) as an additional security measure to ensure compromised passwords don’t lead to unauthorized access. For privileged accounts, use a password vault, which can make handwritten password notes (and shared passwords altogether) obsolete.
  6. 14% do not use multi-factor authentication for apps or services unless forced to do so. Centrify also found that 58% of organizations do not use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for privileged administrative access to servers, leaving their IT systems and infrastructure unsecured. Not securing privileged access credentials with MFA or, at the very least, vaulting them is like handing the keys to the kingdom to cybercriminals going after privileged account access. Securing privileged credentials needs to begin with a Zero Trust-based approach that verifies who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.
  7. 1 out of every 25 employees hacks into a colleague’s email account without permission. In the UK, this would be considered a violation of the Computer Misuse Act, which has some unfortunate outcomes for those found guilty of violating it. The Censuswide survey also found that one in 20 workers have logged into friend’s Facebook accounts without permission. If you work in an organization of over 1,000 people, for example, 40 people in your company have most likely hacked into a colleague’s email account, opening up your entire company to legal liability.

Conclusion

Leaving cybersecurity to chance and hoping employees will do the right thing isn’t a strategy; it’s an open invitation to get hacked. The Censuswide survey and many others like it reflect a fundamental truth that cybersecurity needs to become part of the muscle memory of any organization to be effective. As traditional IT network perimeters dissolve, enterprises need to replace “trust but verify” with a Zero Trust-based framework. Zero Trust Privilege mandates a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to privileged access, from inside or outside the network. Leaders in this area include Centrify, who combines password vaulting with brokering of identities, multi-factor authentication enforcement, and “just enough” privilege, all while securing remote access and monitoring of all privileged sessions.

Machine Learning Is Helping To Stop Security Breaches With Threat Analytics

Bottom Line: Machine learning is enabling threat analytics to deliver greater precision regarding the risk context of privileged users’ behavior, creating notifications of risky activity in real time, while also being able to actively respond to incidents by cutting off sessions, adding additional monitoring, or flagging for forensic follow-up.

Separating Security Hacks Fact from Fiction

It’s time to demystify the scale and severity of breaches happening globally today. A commonly-held misconception or fiction is that millions of hackers have gone to the dark side and are orchestrating massive attacks on any and every business that is vulnerable. The facts are far different and reflect a much more brutal truth, which is that businesses make themselves easy to hack into by not protecting their privileged access credentials. Cybercriminals aren’t expending the time and effort to hack into systems; they’re looking for ingenious ways to steal privileged access credentials and walk in the front door. According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, ‘Phishing’ (as a pre-cursor to credential misuse), ‘Stolen Credentials’, and ‘Privilege Abuse’ account for the majority of threat actions in breaches (see page 9 of the report).

It only really takes one compromised credential to potentially impact millions — whether it’s millions of individuals or millions of dollars. Undeniably, identities and the trust we place in them are being used against us. They have become the Achilles heel of our cybersecurity practices. According to a recent study by Centrify among 1,000 IT decision makers, 74% of respondents whose organizations have been breached acknowledged that it involved access to a privileged account. This number closely aligns with Forrester Research’s estimate “that at least 80% of data breaches . . . [involved] compromised privileged credentials, such as passwords, tokens, keys, and certificates.”

While the threat actors might vary according to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, the cyber adversaries’ tactics, techniques, and procedures are the same across the board. Verizon found that the fastest growing source of threats are from internal actors, as the graphic from the study illustrates below:


Internal actors are the fastest growing source of breaches because they’re able to obtain privileged access credentials with minimal effort, often obtaining them through legitimate access requests to internal systems or harvesting their co-workers’ credentials by going through the sticky notes in their cubicles. Privileged credential abuse is a challenge to detect as legacy approaches to cybersecurity trust the identity of the person using the privileged credentials. In effect, the hacker is camouflaged by the trust assigned to the privileged credentials they have and can roam internal systems undetected, exfiltrating sensitive data in the process.

The reality is that many breaches can be prevented by some of the most basic Privileged Access Management (PAM) tactics and solutions, coupled with a Zero Trust approach. Most organizations are investing the largest chunk of their security budget on protecting their network perimeter rather than focusing on security controls, which can affect positive change to protect against the leading attack vector: privileged access abuse.

The bottom line is that investing in securing perimeters leaves the most popular attack vector of all unprotected, which are privileged credentials. Making PAM a top priority is crucial to protect any business’ most valuable asset; it’s systems, data, and the intelligence they provide. Gartner has listed PAM on its Top 10 Security Projects for the past two years for a good reason.

Part of a cohesive PAM strategy should include machine learning-based threat analytics to provide an extra layer of security that goes beyond a password vault, multi-factor authentication (MFA), or privilege elevation.

How Machine Learning and Threat Analytics Stop Privileged Credential Abuse 

Machine learning algorithms enable threat analytics to immediately detect anomalies and non-normal behavior by tracking login behavioral patterns, geolocation, and time of login, and many more variables to calculate a risk score. Risk scores are calculated in real-time and define if access is approved, if additional authentication is needed, or if the request is blocked entirely.

Machine learning-based threat analytics also provide the following benefits:

  • New insights into privileged user access activity based on real-time data related to unusual recent privilege change, the command runs, target accessed, and privilege elevation.
  • Gain greater understanding and insights into the specific risk nature of specific events, computing a risk score in real time for every event expressed as high, medium, or low level for any anomalous activity.
  •  Isolate, identify, and track which security factors triggered an anomaly alert.
  • Capture, play, and analyze video sessions of anomalous events within the same dashboard used for tracking overall security activity.
  • Create customizable alerts that provide context-relevant visibility and session recording and can also deliver notifications of anomalies, all leading to quicker, more informed investigative action.

What to Look for In Threat Analytics 
Threat analytics providers are capitalizing on machine learning to improve the predictive accuracy and usability of their applications continually. What’s most important is for any threat analytics application or solution you’re considering to provide context-aware access decisions in real time. The best threat analytics applications on the market today are using machine learning as the foundation of their threat analytics engine. These machine learning-based engines are very effective at profiling the normal behavior pattern for any user on any login attempt, or any privileged activity including commands, identifying anomalies in real time to enable risk-based access control. High-risk events are immediately flagged, alerted, notified, and elevated to IT’s attention, speeding analysis, and greatly minimizing the effort required to assess risk across today’s hybrid IT environments.

The following is the minimum set of features to look for in any privilege threat analytics solution:

  • Immediate visibility with a flexible, holistic view of access activity across an enterprise-wide IT network and extended partner ecosystem. Look for threat analytics applications that provide dashboards and interactive widgets to better understand the context of IT risk and access patterns across your IT infrastructure. Threat analytics applications that give you the flexibility of tailoring security policies to every user’s behavior and automatically flagging risky actions or access attempts, so that you’ll gain immediate visibility into account risk, eliminating the overhead of sifting through millions of log files and massive amounts of historical data.
  • They have intuitively designed and customizable threat monitoring and investigation screens, workflows, and modules. Machine learning is enabling threat analytics applications to deliver more contextually-relevant and data-rich insights than has ever been possible in the past. Look for threat analytics vendors who offer intuitively designed and customizable threat monitoring features that provide insights into anomalous activity with a detailed timeline view. The best threat analytics vendors can identify the specific factors contributing to an anomaly for a comprehensive understanding of a potential threat, all from a single console. Security teams can then view system access, anomaly detection in high resolutions with analytics tools such as dashboards, explorer views, and investigation tools.
  • Must provide support for easy integration to Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools. Privileged access data is captured and stored to enable querying by log management and SIEM reporting tools. Make sure any threat analytics application you’re considering has installed, and working integrations with SIEM tools and platforms such as Micro Focus® ArcSight™, IBM® QRadar™, and Splunk® to identify risks or suspicious activity quickly.
  • Must Support Alert Notification by Integration with Webhook-Enabled Endpoints. Businesses getting the most value out of their threat analytics applications are integrating with Slack or existing onboard incident response systems such as PagerDuty to enable real-time alert delivery, eliminating the need for multiple alert touch points and improving time to respond. When an alert event occurs, the threat analytics engine allows the user to send alerts into third-party applications via Webhook. This capability enables the user to respond to a threat alert and contain the impact of a breach attempt.

Conclusion 
CentrifyForresterGartner, and Verizon each have used different methodologies and reached the same conclusion from their research: privileged access abuse is the most commonly used tactic for hackers to exfiltrate sensitive data. Breaches based on privileged credential abuse are extremely difficult to stop, as these credentials often have the greatest levels of trust and access rights associated with them. Leveraging threat analytics applications using machine learning that is adept at finding anomalies in behavioral data and thwarting a breach by denying access is proving very effective against privileged credential abuse.

Companies, including Centrify, use risk scoring combined with adaptive MFA to empower a least-privilege access approach based on Zero Trust. This Zero Trust Privilege approach verifies who or what is requesting privileged access, the context behind the request, and the risk of the access environment to enforce least privilege. These are the foundations of Zero Trust Privilege and are reflected in how threat analytics apps are being created and improved today.

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.

CIO’s Guide To Stopping Privileged Access Abuse – Part 2

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 2019Forrester 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Conclusion

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.

CIO’s Guide To Stopping Privileged Access Abuse – Part I

CIOs face the paradox of having to protect their businesses while at the same time streamlining access to the information and systems their companies need to grow. The threatscape they’re facing requires an approach to security that is adaptive to the risk context of each access attempt across any threat surface, anytime. Using risk scores to differentiate between privileged users attempting to access secured systems in a riskier context than normal versus privileged credential abuse by attackers has proven to be an effective approach for thwarting credential-based breaches.

Privileged credential abuse is one of the most popular breach strategies organized crime and state-sponsored cybercrime organizations use. They’d rather walk in the front door of enterprise systems than hack in. 74% of IT decision makers surveyed whose organizations have been breached in the past say it involved privileged access credential abuse, yet just 48% have a password vault. Just 21% have multi-factor authentication (MFA) implemented for privileged administrative access. These and many other insights are from Centrify’s recent survey, Privileged Access Management in the Modern Threatscape.

How CIOs Are Solving the Paradox of Privileged Credential Abuse

The challenge to every CIO’s security strategy is to adapt to risk contexts in real-time, accurately assessing every access attempt across every threat surface, risk-scoring each in milliseconds. By taking a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to security, CIOs can provide an adaptive, contextually accurate Zero Trust-based approach to verifying privileged credentials. Zero Trust Privilege is emerging as a proven framework for thwarting privileged credential abuse by verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.

By taking a least privilege access approach, organizations can minimize attack surfaces, improve audit and compliance visibility, and reduce risk, complexity, and the costs of operating a modern, hybrid enterprise. CIOs are solving the paradox of privileged credential abuse by knowing that even if a privileged user has entered the right credentials but the request comes in with risky context, then stronger verification is needed to permit access.

Strategies For Stopping Privileged Credential Abuse

The following are five strategies CIOs need to concentrate on to stop privileged credential abuse. Starting with an inventory of privileged accounts and progressing through finding the gaps in IT infrastructure that create opportunities for privileged credential abuse, CIOs and their teams need to take preemptive action now to avert potential breaches in the future.

In Part 1 of a CIO’s Guide to Stopping Privileged Access Abuse, below are the steps they can take to get started:

  1. Discover and inventory all privileged accounts and their credentials to define who is accountable for managing their security and use. According to a survey by Gartner, more than 65% of enterprises are allowing shared use of privileged accounts with no accountability for their use. CIOs realize that a lack of consistent governance policies creates many opportunities for privileged credential abuse. They’re also finding orphaned accounts, multiple owners for privileged credentials and the majority of system administrators having super user or root user access rights for the majority of enterprise systems.
  2. Vault your cloud platforms’ Root Accounts and federate access to AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and other public cloud consoles. Root passwords on each of the cloud platforms your business relies on are the “keys to the kingdom” and provide bad actors from inside and outside the company to exfiltrate data with ease. The recent news of how a fired employee deleted his former employer’s 23 AWS servers is a cautionary tale of what happens when a Zero Trust approach to privileged credentials isn’t adopted. Centrify’s survey found that 63% or organizations take more than a day to shut off privilege access for an employee after leaving the company. Given how AWS root user accounts have the privilege to delete all instances immediately, it’s imperative for organizations to have a password vault where AWS root account credentials are stored. Instead of local AWS IAM accounts and access keys, use centralized identities (e.g., Active Directory) and enable federated login. By doing so, you obviate the need for long-lived access keys.
  3. Audit privileged sessions and analyze patterns to find potentially privileged credential sharing or abuse not immediately obvious from audits. Audit and log authorized and unauthorized user sessions across all enterprise systems, especially focusing on root password use across all platforms. Taking this step is essential for assigning accountability for each privileged credential in use. It will also tell you if privileged credentials are being shared widely across the organization. Taking a Zero Trust approach to securing privileged credentials will quickly find areas where there could be potential lapses or gaps that invite breaches. For AWS accounts, be sure to use AWS CloudTrail and Amazon CloudWatch to monitor all API activity across all AWS instances and your AWS account.
  4. Enforce least privilege access now within your existing infrastructure as much as possible, defining a security roadmap based on the foundations of Zero Trust as your future direction. Using the inventory of all privileged accounts as the baseline, update least privilege access on each credential now and implement a process for privilege elevation that will lower the overall risk and ability for attackers to move laterally and extract data. The days of “trust but verify” are over. CIOs from insurance and financial services companies recently spoken with point out that their new business models, all of them heavily reliant on secured Internet connectivity, are making Zero Trust the cornerstone of their future services strategies. They’re all moving beyond “trust but verify” to adopt a more adaptive approach to knowing the risk context by threat surface in real-time.
  5. Adopt multi-factor authentication (MFA) across all threat surfaces that can adapt and flex to the risk context of every request for resources. The CIOs running a series of insurance and financial services firms, a few of them former MBA students of mine, say multi-factor authentication is a must-have today for preventing privileged credential abuse. Their take on it is that adding in an authentication layer that queries users with something they know (user name, password, PIN or security question) with something they have (smartphone, one-time password token or smart card), something they are (biometric identification like fingerprint) and something they’ve done (contextual pattern matching of what they normally do where) has helped thwart privileged credential abuse exponentially since they adopted it. This is low-hanging fruit: adaptive MFA has made the productivity impact of this additional validation practically moot.

Conclusion

Every CIO I know is now expected to be a business strategist first, and a technologist second. At the top of many of their list of priorities is securing the business so it can achieve uninterrupted growth. The CIOs I regularly speak with running insurance and financial services companies often speak of how security is as much a part of their new business strategies as the financial products their product design teams are developing. The bottom line is that the more adaptive and able to assess the context of risks for each privilege access attempt a company’s access management posture can become, the more responsive they can be to employees and customers alike, fueling future growth.

5 Things Every Executive Needs To Know About Identity And Access Management

  • For new digital business models to succeed, customers’ privacy preferences need to be secure, and that begins by treating every identity as a new security perimeter.
  • Organizations need to recognize that perimeter-based security, which focuses on securing endpoints, firewalls, and networks, provides no protection against identity and credential-based threats. Until they start implementing identity-centric security measures, account compromise attacks will continue to provide a perfect camouflage for data breaches.
  • 74% of data breaches start with privileged credential abuse that could have been averted if the organizations had adopted a Privileged Access Management (PAM) strategy, according to a recent Centrify survey.
  • Just 48% of organizations have a password vault, and only 21% have multi-factor authentication (MFA) implemented for privileged administrative access.

New digital business models are redefining organizations’ growth trajectories and enabling startups to thrive, all driven by customer trust. Gaining and strengthening customer trust starts with a security strategy that can scale quickly to secure every identity and threat surface a new business model creates. Centrify’s recent survey, Privileged Access Management in the Modern Threatscape, found 74% of data breaches begin with privileged credential abuse. The survey also found that the most important areas of IT infrastructure that new digital business models rely on to succeed — including Big Data repositories, cloud platform access, containers, and DevOps — are among the most vulnerable. The most urgent challenges executives are facing include protecting their business, securing customer data, and finding new ways to add value to their business’ operations.

Why Executives Need to Know About Identity and Access Management Now  

Executives have a strong sense of urgency to improve Identity and Access Management (IAM) today to assure the right individuals access the right resources at the right times and for the right reasons. IAM components like Access Management, Single Sign-On, Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM), Advanced Authentication, Identity Governance and Administration (IGA), IoT-Driven IAM, and Privileged Access Management address the need to ensure appropriate access to resources across an organization’s entire attack surface and to meet compliance requirements. Considering that privileged access abuse is the leading cause of today’s breaches, they’re especially prioritizing Privileged Account Management as part of their broader cybersecurity strategies to secure the “keys to their kingdom.” Gartner supports this view by placing a high priority on Privileged Account Management, including it in its Gartner Top 10 Security Projects for 2018, and again in 2019.

During a recent conversation with insurance and financial services executives, I learned why Privileged Access Management is such an urgent, high priority today. Privileged access abuse is the leading attack vector, where they see the majority of breach attempts to access the company’s most sensitive systems and data. It’s also where they can improve customer data security while also making employees more productive by giving them access systems and platforms faster. All of them know instances of hackers and state-sponsored hacking groups offering bitcoin payments in exchange for administrative-level logins and passwords to their financial systems.

Several of the executives I spoke with are also evaluating Zero Trust as the foundation for their cybersecurity strategy. As their new digital business models grow, all of them are focused on discarding the outdated, “trust, but verify” mindset and replacing it with Zero Trust, which mandates a “never trust, always verify” approach. They’re also using a least privilege access approach to minimize each attack surface and improve audit and compliance visibility while reducing risk, complexity, and costs.

The following are the five things every executive needs to know about Identity and Access Management to address a reality that every company and consumer must recognize exists today: attackers no longer “hack” in, they log in.

  1. Designing in the ability to manage access rights and all digital identities of privileged users require Privileged Access Management (PAM) and Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) systems be integrated as part of an IAM strategy. For digital business initiatives’ security strategies to scale, they need to support access requests, entitlement management, and user credential attestation for governance purposes. With identities being the new security perimeter, provisioning least privileged access to suppliers, distributors, and service organizations is also a must-have to scale any new business model. Natively, IGA is dealing only with end users – not privileged users. Therefore integration with PAM systems is required to bring in privileged user data and gain a holistic view of access entitlements.
  2. IAM is a proven approach to securing valuable Intellectual Property (IP), patents, and attaining regulatory compliance, including GDPR. The fascinating digital businesses emerging today also function as patent and IP foundries. A byproduct of their operations is an entirely new business, product and process ideas. Executives spoken with are prioritizing how they secure intellectual property and patents using an Identity and Access Management strategy.
  3. Knowing with confidence the identity of every user is what makes every aspect of an IAM strategy work. Having Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) enabled for every access session, and threat surface is one of the main processes that make an IAM strategy succeed. It’s a best practice to reinforce Zero Trust principles through multi-factor authentication enforcement on each computer that cannot be circumvented (or bypassed) by malware.
  4. Designing in transaction verification now for future e-commerce digital business models is worth it. Think of your IAM initiative as a platform to create ongoing customer trust with. As all digital business initiatives rely on multi-channel selling, designing in transaction verification as part of an IAM strategy is essential. Organizations are combining verification and MFA to thwart breaches and the abuse of credential access abuse.
  5. In defining any IAM strategy focus on how Privileged Access Management (PAM) needs to be tailored to your specific business needs. PAM is the foundational element that turns the investments made in security into business value. It’s a catalyst for ensuring customer trust turns into revenue. Many organizations equate PAM with a password vault. But in a modern threatscape where humans, machines, applications, and services dynamically require access to a broadening range of attack surfaces such as cloud, IoT, Big Data, and containers, that outdated legacy approach won’t effectively secure the leading attack vector: privileged access abuse. Vendors such as Centrify and others are looking beyond the vault and offering Zero Trust solutions for PAM that address these modern access requestors and attack surfaces.

Conclusion

Insurance and financial services executives realize, and even predict, that there’s going to be an increase in the number and intensity of efforts to break into their systems using compromised credentials. Prioritizing Privileged Access Management as part of the IAM toolkit is proving to be an effective cybersecurity strategy for protecting their businesses and customers’ data while also making a valuable contribution to its growth. The bottom line is that Identity and Access Management is the cornerstone of any effective Zero Trust-based strategy, and taking an aggressive, pre-emptive approach to Privileged Access Management is the new normal for organizations’ cybersecurity strategies.

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