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How To Improve Privileged User’s Security Experiences With Machine Learning

Bottom Line: One of the primary factors motivating employees to sacrifice security for speed are the many frustrations they face, attempting to re-authenticate who they are so they can get more work done and achieve greater productivity.

How Bad Security Experiences Lead to a Breach

Every business is facing the paradox of hardening security without sacrificing users’ login and system access experiences. 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 across every threat surface an organization has.

Centrify’s recent survey Privileged Access Management In The Modern Threatscape found that 74% of data breaches start with privileged credential abuse. Forrester estimates that 80% of data breaches have a connection to compromised privileged credentials, such as passwords, tokens, keys, and certificates. On the Dark Web, privileged access credentials are a best-seller because they provide the intruder with “the keys to the kingdom.” By leveraging a “trusted” identity, a hacker can operate undetected and exfiltrate sensitive data sets without raising any red flags.

Frustrated with wasting time responding to the many account lock-outs, re-authentication procedures, and login errors outmoded Privileged Access Management (PAM) systems require, IT Help Desk teams, IT administrators, and admin users freely share privileged credentials, often resulting in them eventually being offered for sale on the Dark Web.

The Keys to the Kingdom Are In High Demand

18% of healthcare employees are willing to sell confidential data to unauthorized parties for as little as $500 to $1,000, and 24% of employees know of someone who has sold privileged credentials to outsiders, according to a recent Accenture survey. State-sponsored and organized crime organizations offer to pay bounties in bitcoin for privileged credentials for many of the world’s largest financial institutions on the Dark Web. And with the typical U.S.-based enterprise losing on average $7.91M from a breach, more than double the global average of $3.86M according to IBM’s 2018 Data Breach Study, it’s clear that improving admin user experiences to reduce the incidence of privileged credential sharing needs to happen now.

How Machine Learning Improves Admin User Experiences and Thwarts Breaches

Machine learning is making every aspect of security experiences more adaptive, taking into account the risk context of every privileged access attempt across any threat surface, anytime. Machine learning algorithms can continuously learn and generate contextual intelligence that is used to streamline verified privileged user’s access while thwarting many potential threats ― the most common of which is compromised credentials.

The following are a few of the many ways machine learning is improving privileged users’ experiences when they need to log in to secure critical infrastructure resources:

  • Machine learning is making it possible to provide adaptive, personalized login experiences at scale using risk-scoring of every access attempt in real-time, all contributing to improved user experiences. Machine learning is making it possible to implement security strategies that flex or adapt to risk contexts in real-time, assessing every access attempt across every threat surface, and generating a risk score in milliseconds. Being able to respond in milliseconds, or real-time is essential for delivering excellent admin user experiences. The “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to security is how many enterprises from a broad base of industries including leading financial services and insurance companies are protecting every threat surface from privileged access abuse. CIOs at these companies say taking a Zero Trust approach with a strong focus on Zero Trust Privilege corporate-wide is redefining the legacy approach to Privileged Access Management by delivering cloud-architected Zero Trust Privilege to secure access to infrastructure, DevOps, cloud, containers, Big Data, and other modern enterprise use cases. Taking a Zero Trust approach to security enables their departments to roll out new services across every threat surface their customers prefer to use without having to customize security strategies for each.
  • Quantify, track and analyze every potential security threat and attempted breach and apply threat analytics to the aggregated data sets in real-time, thwarting data exfiltration attempts before they begin. One of the tenets or cornerstones of Zero Trust Privilege is adaptive control. Machine learning algorithms continually “learn” by continuously analyzing and looking for anomalies in users’ behavior across every threat surface, device, and login attempt. When any users’ behavior appears to be outside the threshold of constraints defined for threat analytics and risk scoring, additional authentication is immediately requested, and access denied to requested resources until an identity can be verified. Machine learning makes adaptive preventative controls possible.
  • When every identity is a new security perimeter, machine learnings’ ability to provide personalization at scale for every access attempt on every threat surface is essential for enabling a company to keep growing. Businesses that are growing the fastest often face the greatest challenges when it comes to improving their privileged users’ experiences. Getting new employees productive quickly needs to be based on four foundational elements. These include verifying the identity of every admin user, knowing the context of their access request, ensuring it’s coming from a clean source, and limiting access as well as privilege. Taken together, these pillars form the foundation of a Zero Trust Privilege.

Conclusion

Organizations don’t have to sacrifice security for speed when they’re relying on machine learning-based approaches for improving the privileged user experience. Today, a majority of IT Help Desk teams, IT administrators, and admin users are freely sharing privileged credentials to be more productive, which often leads to breaches based on privileged access abuse. By taking a machine learning-based approach to validate every access request, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment, roadblocks in the way of greater privileged user productivity disappear. Privileged credential abuse is greatly minimized.

5 Ways To Demystify Zero Trust Security

Bottom Line: Instead of only relying on security vendors’ claims about Zero Trust, benchmark them on a series of five critical success factors instead, with customer results being key.

Analytics, Zero Trust Dominated RSA

Analytics dashboards dominated RSA from a visual standpoint, while Zero Trust Security reigned from an enterprise strategy one. Over 60 vendors claimed to have Zero Trust Security solutions at RSA, with each one defining the concept in a slightly different way.

RSA has evolved into one of the highest energy enterprise-focused conferences today, and in 2019 Zero Trust was center stage in dozens of vendor booths. John Kindervag created the Zero Trust Security framework while at Forrester in 2010. Chase Cunningham, who is a Principal Analyst at Forrester today, is a leading authority on Zero Trust and frequently speaks and writes on the topic. Be sure to follow his blog to stay up to date with his latest research. His most recent post, OK, Zero Trust Is An RSA Buzzword — So What?, captures the current situation on Zero Trust perfectly. Becca Chambers’ blog post, Talking All Things Zero Trust at RSA Conference 2019, includes an insightful video of how the conferences’ attendees define Zero Trust.

With so many vendors claiming to offer Zero Trust solutions, how can you tell which ones have enterprise-ready, scalable solutions?  The following are five ways to demystify Zero Trust:

  1. Customer references are willing to talk and case studies available. With the ambitious goal of visiting every one of the 60 vendors who claimed to have a Zero Trust solution at RSA, I quickly realized that there’s a dearth of customer references. To Chase Cunningham’s point, more customer use cases need to be created, and thankfully that’s on his research agenda. Starting the conversation with each vendor visited by asking for their definition of Zero Trust either led to a debate of whether Zero Trust was needed in the industry or how their existing architecture could morph to fit the framework. Booth staffs at the following companies deserve to be commended for how much they know about their customers’ success with Zero Trust: AkamaiCentrifyCiscoMicrosoftMobileIronPalo Alto NetworksSymantec, and Trend Micro. The team at Ledios Cyberwho was recently acquired by Capgemini, was demonstrating how Zero Trust applied to Industrial Control Systems and shared a wealth of customer insights as well.
  2. Defines success by their customers’ growth, stability and earned trust instead of relying on fear. A key part of de-mystifying Zero Trust is seeing how effective vendors are at becoming partners on the journey their customers are on. While in the Centrify booth I learned of how Interval International has been able to implement a least privilege model for employees, contractors, and consultants, streamline user onboarding, and enable the company to continue its rapid organic growth. At MobileIron, I learned how NASDAQ is scaling mobile applications including CRM to their global sales force on a Zero Trust platform. The most customer-centric Zero Trust vendors tend to differentiate on earned trust over selling fear.
  3. Avoid vendors who have a love-hate relationship with Zero Trust. Zero Trust is having an energizing effect on the security landscape as it provides vendors with a strategic framework they can differentiate themselves in. Security vendors are capitalizing on the market value right now, with product management and engineering teams working overtime to get new applications and platforms ready for market. I found a few vendors who have a love-hate relationship with Zero Trust. They love the marketing mileage or buzz, yet aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about changing product and service strategies. If you’re looking for Zero Trust solutions, be sure to watch for this and find a vendor who is fully committed.
  4. Current product strategies and roadmaps reflect a complete commitment to Zero Trust. Product demos at RSA ranged from supporting the fundamentals of Zero Trust to emulating its concepts on legacy architectures. One of the key attributes to look for is how perimeterless a given security application is that claims to support Zero Trust. How well can a given application protect mobile devices? An IoT device? How can a given application or security platform scale to protect privileged credentials? These are all questions to ask of any vendor who claims to have a Zero Trust solution. Every one of them will have analytics options; the question is whether they fit with your given business scenario. Finally, ask to see how Zero Trust can be automated across all user accounts and how privileged access management can be scaled using Identity Access Management systems including password vaults and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
  5. A solid API strategy for scaling their applications and platforms with partner successes that prove it. One of the best questions to gauge the depth of commitment any vendor has to Zero Trust is to ask about their API strategy. It’s interesting to hear how vendors with Zero Trust-based product and services strategies are scaling inside their largest customers using APIs. Another aspect of this is to see how many of their services, system integration, technology partners are using their APIs to create customized solutions for customers. Success with an API strategy is a leading indicator of how reliably any Zero Trust vendor will be able to scale in the future.

Conclusion

RSA is in many ways a microcosm of the enterprise security market in general and Zero Trust specifically. The millions of dollars in venture capital invested in security analytics and Zero Trust made it possible for vendors to create exceptional in-booth experiences and demonstrations – much the same way venture investment is fueling many of their roadmaps and sales teams. Zero Trust vendors will need to provide application roadmaps that show their ability to move beyond prevention of breaches to more prediction, at the same time supporting customers’ needs to secure infrastructure, credentials, and systems to ensure uninterrupted growth.

74% Of Data Breaches Start With Privileged Credential Abuse

Centrify’s survey shows organizations are granting too much trust and privilege, opening themselves up to potential internal and externally-driven breaches initiated with compromised privileged access credentials. Photo credit: iStock

Enterprises who are prioritizing privileged credential security are creating a formidable competitive advantage over their peers, ensuring operations won’t be interrupted by a breach. However, there’s a widening gap between those businesses protected from a breach and the many who aren’t. In quantifying this gap consider the typical U.S.-based enterprise will lose on average $7.91M from a breach, nearly double the global average of $3.68M according to IBM’s 2018 Data Breach Study.

Further insights into how wide this gap is are revealed in Centrify’s Privileged Access Management in the Modern Threatscape survey results published today. The study is noteworthy as it illustrates how wide the gap is between enterprises’ ability to avert and thwart breaches versus their current levels of Privileged Access Management (PAM) and privileged credential security. 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, and 65% are sharing root or privileged access to systems and data at least somewhat often.

Addressing these three areas with a Zero Trust approach to PAM would make an immediate difference in security.

“What’s alarming is that the survey reveals many organizations, armed with the knowledge that they have been breached before, are doing too little to secure privileged access. IT teams need to be taking their Privileged Access Management much more seriously, and prioritizing basic PAM strategies like vaults and MFA while reducing shared passwords,” remarked Tim Steinkopf, Centrify CEO. FINN Partners, on behalf of Centrify, surveyed 1,000 IT decision makers (500 in the U.S. and 500 in the U.K.) online in October 2018. Please see the study here for more on the methodology.

How You Choose To Secure Privileged Credentials Determines Your Future 

Identities are the new security perimeter. Threats can emerge within and outside any organization, at any time. Bad actors, or those who want to breach a system for financial gain or to harm a business, aren’t just outside. 18% of healthcare employees are willing to sell confidential data to unauthorized parties for as little as $500 to $1,000, and 24% of employees know of someone who has sold privileged credentials to outsiders, according to a recent Accenture survey.

Attackers are increasingly logging in using weak, stolen, or otherwise compromised credentials. Centrify’s survey underscores how the majority of organizations’ IT departments have room for improvement when it comes to protecting privileged access credentials, which are the ‘keys to the kingdom.’ Reading the survey makes one realize that forward-thinking enterprises who are prioritizing privileged credential security gain major cost and time advantages over their competitors. They’re able to keep their momentum going across every area of their business by not having to recover from breaches or incur millions of dollars on losses or fines as the result of a breach.

One of the most promising approaches to securing every privileged identity and threat space within and outside an organization is Zero Trust Privilege (ZTP). ZTP enables an organizations’ IT team to grant least privilege access based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment.

Key Lessons Learned from the Centrify Survey

How wide the gap is between organizations who see identities as the new security perimeter and are adopting a Zero Trust approach to securing them and those that aren’t is reflected in the results of Centrify’s Privileged Access Management in the Modern Threatscape surveyThe following are the key lessons learned of where and how organizations can begin to close the security gaps they have that leave them vulnerable to privileged credential abuse and many other potential threats:

  • Organizations’ most technologically advanced areas that are essential for future growth and attainment of strategic goals are often the most unprotected. Big Data, cloud, containers and network devices are the most important areas of any IT infrastructure. According to Centrify’s survey, they are the most unprotected as well. 72% of organizations aren’t securing containers with privileged access controls. 68% are not securing network devices like hubs, switches, and routers with privileged access controls. 58% are not securing Big Data projects with privileged access controls. 45% are not securing public and private cloud workloads with privileged access controls. The study finds that UK-based businesses lag U.S.-based ones in each of these areas as the graphic below shows:

  • Only 36% of U.K. organizations are very confident in their company’s current IT security software strategies, compared to 65% in the U.S. The gap between organizations with hardened security strategies that have a higher probability of withstanding breach attempts is wide between U.K. and U.S.-based businesses. 44% of U.K. respondents weren’t positive about what Privileged Access Management is, versus 26% of U.S. respondents. 60% of U.K. respondents don’t have a password vault.

  • Just 35% of U.S. organizations and 30% of those in the UK are relying on Privileged Access Management to manage partners’ access to privileged credentials and infrastructure. Partners are indispensable for scaling any new business strategy and expanding an existing one across new markets and countries. Forward-thinking organizations look at every partner associates’ identity as a new security perimeter. The 35% of U.S.-based organizations doing this have an immediate competitive advantage over the 65% who aren’t. By enforcing PAM across their alliances and partnerships, organizations can achieve uninterrupted growth by eliminating expensive and time-consuming breaches that many businesses never fully recover from.
  • Organizations’ top five security projects for 2019 include protecting cloud data, preventing data leakage, analyzing security incidents, improving security education/awareness and encrypting data. These top five security projects could be achieved at scale by having IT teams implement a Zero Trust-based approach to Privileged Access Management (PAM). The time, cost and scale advantages of getting the top five security projects done using Zero Trust would free up IT teams to focus on projects that deliver direct revenue gains for example.

Conclusion

Centrify’s survey shows organizations are granting too much trust and privilege, opening themselves up to potential internal and externally-driven breaches initiated with compromised privileged access credentials. It also reveals that there is a strong desire to adhere to best practices when it comes to PAM (51% of respondents) and that the reason it is not being adequately implemented rarely has to do with prioritization or difficulty but rather budget constraints and executive buy-in.

The survey also shows U.K. – and U.S.-based organizations need to realize identity is the new security perimeter. For example, only 37% of respondents’ organizations are able to turn off privileged access for an employee who leaves the company within one day, leaving a wide-open exposure point that can continue to be exploited.

There are forward-thinking organizations who are relying on Zero Trust Privilege as a core part of their digital transformation efforts as well. The survey found that given a choice, respondents are most likely to say digital transformation (40%) is one of the top 3 projects they’d prefer to work on, followed by Endpoint Security (37%) and Privileged Access Management (28%). Many enterprises see digital transformation’s missing link being Zero Trust and the foundation for redefining their businesses by defining every identity as a new security perimeter, so they can securely scale and grow faster than before.

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