privileged access management

Top Practices in Privileged Access Management for SMBs

All small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) oversee safeguarding significant amounts of riches in the current digital era. At least, that is how cybercriminals perceive sensitive data like trade secrets, intellectual property, and customer and employee information. Only certain privileged users, such as IT administrators, have unrestricted access to this asset because of how crucial it is. 

Thus, bad actors view privileged individuals as incredibly valuable targets and will go to tremendous efforts to obtain their keys to plunder the virtual realm. Organizations must put tight security measures in place, such as the Privileged Access Management (PAM) best practices discussed in this article, to stop this from happening. 

What Does Privileged Access Management (PAM) Mean and What Are its Advantages of It? 

A security practice called Privileged Access Management (PAM) involves restricting and managing access to privileged accounts. It addresses the issue that not every user that interacts with a system or the data it stores has the same privileges. 

Certain users have additional capabilities than typical users, including domain administrators, local administrators, and application administrators. They can, for example, access data without any limitations, alter system configurations and settings, or even change the privileges of other users. 

Organizations can better safeguard these privileged accounts and lower their risk of cyberattacks, data breaches, and insider threats by using PAM best practices. PAM, on the other hand, facilitates regulatory compliance and can boost productivity by, among other things, lowering the time and effort needed to provide and manage privileged access. 

Identity Access Management versus Privileged Access Management 

Due to their shared emphasis on user authentication and authorization, PAM and IAM are occasionally mistaken for each other. The primary distinction between them is that while IAM creates and manages all user identities and access rights, PAM concentrates only on privileged users. 

5 Crucial Best Practices for Privileged Access Management

Those SMBs who want to prevent credential-stealing thieves from simply breaching their digital fortresses should apply the five PAM best practices listed below. 

1. Completely list all privileged accounts. 

While establishing a PAM strategy, SMBs should start by compiling a comprehensive list of all privileged accounts. Most of the time, SMBs come across a large number of accounts they had no idea even existed, such as long-forgotten elevated personal accounts used by executives, shared privileged accounts made by social media administrators, or numerous service accounts used for app-to-app communication. 

Who utilizes each privileged account and how should be made crystal obvious in the privileged account inventory? To immediately reach the user should there be any problems with their account, it should also contain the user's contact information. Delete any detected privileged accounts that are no longer required. 

2. Enhance Privileged User Authentication 

The keys shouldn't be simple to replicate if privileged users control the most important systems and sensitive data. Because of this, businesses should require privileged accounts to follow recommended practices for password security, such as: 

  • Create secure, one-of-a-kind passwords for every account. 

  • Avoid using the same password for several accounts. 

  • Prevent storing passwords in plain text files or writing them down. 

Organizations should also enable multi-factor authentication to add an additional layer of security by providing at least one additional lock to each privileged account (MFA). When MFA is turned on, a secondary form of authentication, such as a fingerprint, security token, or one-time code, is additionally required in order to access a privileged account. 

3. Minimize Access to Privileged Information 

Just-in-time access and the principle of least privilege call for granting elevated rights only when necessary, to resources that are genuinely required, and for the shortest amount of time necessary. 

Just-in-time access: By allowing privileged access only when it is required and withdrawing it right away after use, this security approach tries to minimize the amount of time a user has elevated rights. 

The idea of least privilege safeguards sensitive data from unauthorized and excessive access by both insiders and outsiders by allowing users only the minimum number of privileges required for them to carry out their job duties. 

4. Watch privileged account activity and log it

Any effective PAM approach must include the monitoring and logging of privileged account activities as a fundamental tenet. Companies with real-time insight into the use and activity of their privileged accounts are better able to identify possible misuse early and take action before it has a negative impact. 

Considering how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to manually examine all privileged account activity, businesses should create baselines and put in place systems that allow the automatic reaction to recognized deviations. 

5. Check Privileged Accounts Often 

Finally, businesses should periodically check their privileged accounts to make sure that each one is still required and has the right level of access. Depending on the size and security posture of the company, this continuing procedure should be carried out at least once a year. 

Accounts that are redundant or out of date should be deleted, and any rights that are not appropriate should be withdrawn. A great opportunity for businesses to assess their overall PAM strategy, make any necessary adjustments, and make sure the approach remains in line with the changing security landscape is through regular evaluations of privileged accounts. 

Start Privileged Access Management Today 

Privileged Access Management (PAM), which deals with the protection of the most significant accounts and, as a result, the systems, and data those accounts may access and manage, is, in conclusion, a crucial component of cybersecurity. 

The good news for small and medium-sized businesses is that modern PAM solutions make it simple to put the PAM best practices outlined in this article into effect to safeguard the keys to their most priceless digital assets. 

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