Privileged Access Management Considerations

Privileged Access Management (PAM) has emerged as one of the most effective security technologies in recent years, mainly because it can provide complete, end-to-end data protection solutions. The most fundamental reason for this is that all companies, whether private or public, may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks regardless of their location. As cyber attackers improve the resources and methods, the security measures taken need to evolve as well.

Although today’s cyber security technologies are effective defense methods at this point, they are not compelling enough when they are built alone. It’s important to remember that the individuals who create malware aren’t machines at any security stage, including Privileged Access Management. They can operate outside of particular circumstances at any time.

See Also: How to Identify and Verify Access to System Components for PCI DSS

At this point, it becomes evident that, as institutions build their security architecture, they must focus on the human component and technology. This situation, which requires anticipating internal and external threats, also necessitates data security infrastructure needs such as Privileged Access Management (PAM), which provides multi-layered, user-based, and instant system monitoring.

See Also: Which Privileged Accounts You Should Manage and Keep Safe

In general, Privileged Access Management applications, which consist of four main elements, manage to balance technology and human factors. With Privileged Access Management, you can take your company’s data security procedures to the next level by following the steps below.

1. Monitor and Secure All Privileged Accounts

Detection and control of authorized accounts, which is one of the cornerstones of Privileged Access Management, is of great importance. An uncontrolled authorized account does not have to be malicious to pose a risk.

For example, the momentary distraction of an employee who has privileged access in your company but whose operations are not detected or controlled can lead to the formation of essential security vulnerabilities and the disclosure of critical data belonging to your company.

See Also: How to Perform User Access Review

For effective process management regarding privileged access, it should always be based on information. It should always be known which administrators have what kind of access rights. The records of those who have previously performed inappropriate actions should be examined. As a result, access restrictions should be applied if necessary.

A comprehensive Privileged Access Management platform with a modular structure in many security layers can be used to ensure that all these steps operate in a healthy, trouble-free, and efficient manner.

2. Manage and Control Access

The two most essential steps in Privileged Access Management are identifying the accounts with privileged access and meticulously determining the areas these accounts can access. As a result, it’s critical to monitor and control the people who have frequent access to these accounts.

While the Least Privilege Policy keeps the authorization of users accessing data fields at a minimum level, authorized accounts can be controlled one by one by using Privileged Access Management to achieve maximum efficiency without disrupting business processes.

Technologies such as an authorized session manager, two-factor authentication (2FA), and a central password manager for an effective auditing process for privileged access allow you to control assigned accounts and audit transactions made through these accounts.

In addition, time, location, or device-based verification capabilities, which are also among the solutions offered by Privileged Access Management, ensures that only authorized accounts can access the system within certain hours, from certain places and specific devices. Naturally, all these advanced and detailed applications are a significant advantage in terms of data security.

3. Record and Audit Privileged Account Activity

In Privileged Access Management, controls performed by humans are as crucial as technology-supported control. Therefore, the access, identity, or data security system you prefer should have compelling features in recording and reporting the activities of authorized accounts on the system, in addition to taking high-level precautions.

Thus, you can examine the accounts with different levels of privilege, the changes made on these accounts, or the transactions performed by these accounts with the help of video recording and control them much more quickly.

4. Make Privileged Tasks More Functional

An integrated and functional approach covering all real and virtual users inside and outside the system is necessary for technology- and people-oriented, seamlessly functioning cyber security infrastructure. In addition to company personnel, it is essential to consider third-party supply chain providers or database services known as virtual users.

Otherwise, it is possible to encounter many vulnerabilities and disruptions in cyber security. For this reason, when planning Privileged Access Management integration, attention should be paid to the details during the identification of such users, and the margin of error based on human factors should be eliminated or minimized.

This stage plays a critical role in applying the Segregation of Duties Principle approaches, one of the fundamental steps of risk management. Privileged Access Management applications, which automate and control the Principle of separation of duties requirements, make authorized account management more efficient and functional.

What Makes Privileged Access Management (PAM) So Beneficial?

Privileged account management (PAM) is a solution that helps you control, manage and monitor access to critical assets. Data integrity is vital to organizations. Privileges such as operating on or seeing data should not be defined for every user.

PAM is one of the hottest topics in cybersecurity, and this is because cybercriminals’ first goal is to discover and exploit privileged accounts to gain unrestricted access to critical assets.

See Also: What is the Separation of Duties Principle and How Is It Implemented?

PAM creates an isolated, highly secure, and tightly controlled environment to store privileged credentials and control access to them. It also provides detailed usage monitoring for privileged accounts (i.e., administrator accounts), usually shared accounts.

A privileged account has additional privileges than regular users. Privileged accounts are accounts that have the right to perform many operations in the system. They can perform operations that standard users cannot do and access files that they cannot see.

  • Provides Auditing and Reporting. It can audit and report user sessions.
  • Offers Versatile Access Points.
  • Provides Session Management. Session management and alerts help seniors identify potential attacks in real-time. Protects privileged users such as administrators against cybercriminals.
  • Offers multi-factor authentication protocols.
  • There may be times when some administrators need immediate access. In the meanwhile, you’ll have to make do with the benefits of your system’s auditing and registration processes. PAM offers a secure app launcher that provides instant access to apps without revealing passwords. Administrators can configure this access to as many or as few applications as needed.
  • By centralizing privileged credentials in one place, PAM systems can provide a high level of security for them, control whose access, log all logins, and monitor suspicious activity.
  • Protects the organization against internal attacks. It reduces a concentrated attack surface that protects against both internal and external threats. Restricting privileges for people, processes, and applications also means reduced access routes and logins for exploitation.

What PCI DSS Requirements Can Privileged Access Management (PAM) Meet?

Financial systems are attractive targets for hackers because they offer a potentially big payout with little risk. Account information and credit card details, on the other hand, can be stolen and resold on the black market or utilized directly. Of course, the responsibility to ensure their infrastructure is secure rests with companies.

See Also: What Does the Separation of Duties and Needs-to-Know Principles Stand for the PCI Requirement 7

Security can be challenging given the number of ATMs, databases, or mainframes and the number of people who need the privilege.  Fortunately, PCI DSS standards help ensure cybersecurity, and Privileged Access Management (PAM) can help ensure that most PCI DSS requirements are met.

  • PCI DSS Requirement 2: vendor-supplied defaults should not be used for system or administrator passwords. A robust PAM solution should have built-in password management controls and allow for forced rotation of passwords and keys by rule creation or enforcement. In addition, the PAM solution must be able to enforce these controls not only for human users but also for passwords and keys from application to application.
  • PCI DSS Requirement 7: Access to payment cardholder data should be limited to business need-to-know. Cardholder data is confidential information that those with the necessary permissions should only access. Of course, ensuring that sensitive resources are accessed only by eligible users is one of the essential features of PAM. A robust PAM solution will not only meet this PCI DSS requirement. Still, it will also exceed it by ensuring that users are granted appropriate privileges and that the conditions of access attempts meet defined rules.
  • PCI DSS Requirement 8: Identify and verify access system components. A full-featured PAM solution will satisfy this requirement to control privileged access by the user and by conditions. For example, it should be controllable what critical resources a user can access and remote locations or IP addresses to allow such privileged access.
  • PCI DSS Requirement 10: All access to network resources and cardholder data must be monitored and tracked. A suitable PAM solution will meet PCI DSS requirements by monitoring and recording all session activity, as it requires knowing who and what, and when. In addition, the best PAM solutions will meet PCI DSS requirements even better by having the ability to automatically terminate attempted intrusion sessions or actions that could put cardholder data and other privileged resources at risk.

Of course, the PCI DSS standard contains many requirements and covers many more aspects of payment card security than PAM can cover. On the other hand, a robust PAM solution allows for a more assertive cybersecurity posture, which helps with PCI compliance and protecting sensitive payment data.

Surkay Baykara
Surkay Baykara
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Cyberwise. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Cyberwise, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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