5 Common Challenges Associated With Privileged Access

Privileged Access Management refers to the strategies and technologies organizations utilise to manage the privileged access and permissions for users, accounts, processes, and systems across an IT environment.

Our last post talked about what is privileged access management, and why it's important. There are several reasons why managing privileged access is crucial when it comes to enhancing an organization’s cybersecurity posture but there are also several risks and challenges associated with implementing privileged access. Below are five of the most common challenges:

Lack of productivity due to overly restrictive privileges 

Over implementation of privileged access and highly restrictive privileges can have a huge impact on employee productivity, for example, disruptive controls over who has access to what can cause frustration for employees as their workflow is hindered due to restricted access. Another common challenge with privileged access occurs when employees retain privileges that they don’t require as their role in the organization evolves, for example, Windows PC users usually are logged into administrative accounts that provide them with more privileges than needed when it comes to completing their job, this excessive level of privileged access can broaden the overall attack surface and makes the organization susceptible to malware and hackers. 

Forgotten privileged accounts, users, and assets are a common backdoor for hackers

Monitoring and identification of every single privileged account, user and asset is a crucial part of a robust privileged access management system. Ineffective monitoring and identification of privilege can lead to long-forgotten privileged accounts going undetected, this opens up organizations to hackers who using these undetected accounts can breach the organization’s defense via these unknown backdoors. For example, when an employee leaves an organization, their privileged access to organization systems and networks needs to be disabled, on many occasions employees have been able to retain access and have the opportunity to steal or compromise sensitive data. 

Employees who share privileged credentials can lead to issues with auditability and compliance

Teams in an organization, especially ones in IT typically share privileged credentials like Windows Administrator for convenience. Although sharing credentials can make the lives of employees easier it creates challenges for the organization when they need to identify who’s accountable for specific actions, this can lead to problems when it comes to security, auditability and meeting compliance requirements. 

Decentralized credential management can lead to security vulnerabilities

Organizations are made of multiple departments and credentials may be managed differently across all departments making it hard to maintain best practices. Most IT environments consist of hundreds or even thousands of privileged accounts and credentials, making it difficult to scale human privilege management across organizations. Due to the sheer number of accounts, employees may tend to reuse credentials across accounts for convenience, which creates vulnerabilities. For instance, if login credentials are reused by employees, a single compromised account can jeopardize the security of multiple accounts where credentials are reused. 

The practice of keeping Hard-coded/Embedded credentials can create security risks 

When it comes to authenticating communication between applications or applications and databases, privileged credentials are often used. Applications, systems or network devices, are commonly shipped with embedded, default credentials that are easy to guess, employees will often hardcode secrets in plain text—such as within a script, code, or a file, so it is easily accessible when they need it, both these aspects pose substantial risk when it comes to information security. 

How do you currently manage privileged accounts within your organisation? StickmanCyber's team can help review your existing setup and share and implement recommendations around building the right privileged access management systems

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