A company’s IT infrastructure is its most precious asset in today’s world since it contains all related data. This importance makes a company’s IT systems the desired target for all sorts of security risks. Malicious agents are always on the prowl seeking their next enterprise victim.
The threats almost always exploit vulnerabilities present within the IT infrastructure itself. These vulnerabilities could be the result of improper implementation of the system, particularly its security measures. Or, they could be due to accidental or deliberate actions of an internal or external agent. Either way, stemming these vulnerabilities before they are detected by unsavory agents significantly reduces the risk factor.
The IT security industry has created a slew of strategies to mitigate/neutralize security risks to enterprise IT systems. One of the longstanding and proven strategies is the concept of least privilege. Fundamentally, it is about restricting system access to users, both human and machine, to only the amount required for a task. The results of implementing this principle have made it a must-have security feature.
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What Are The Major Vulnerabilities?
Risks to enterprise IT systems are rarely ever the result of a random occurrence. In most cases, they are due to an oversight during routine functioning of the business, poor security policy development and implementation, etc.
The following are the factors behind the emergence of system vulnerabilities:
- Unwanted Accounts
Any company is a dynamic environment where people come and go, and equipment/resources are continuously being used and discarded. The business IT systems experience the same. Accounts created for a particular session for a person could get left behind after their use.
These redundant accounts function as the ideal entry points for someone or something looking to harm the system. Even temporarily inactive ones, albeit for long durations, could have the same effect. These risks also fly under the owners’ radars in many cases.
- Poor Separation Of Duties
One way to prevent error development in the system and instances of fraud is to follow the separation of duty concept. Here, responsibilities and privileges get shared by several people.
It is to prevent all cases of fraudulent activity, data theft, privilege abuse, watering down of security controls, etc. If implemented incorrectly, it could have the opposite effect.
- Wrongful Privilege Escalation
Privilege escalation is when one with a lower privilege level gains access to an account with a higher privilege. It could happen up the hierarchy (vertical) or across the same segment (horizontal). There’s no need to explain the dangers when such a privilege fence-breach occurs.
- Deadly Combination
When two or more reasons behind security holes occur at once, it signals a deadly or toxic combination. In these cases, it means those in charge of security are in for a challenge.
The concept of Least Privilege prevents these by allowing limited access to only those identities (human and machine) that are pertinent for the job.
How to Best Implement It?
Least privilege gets best implemented with these measures:
- Regular Privilege auditing
- Enforced privilege separation
- Limiting Access Time
- Having least privilege as the baseline for all accounts
- Tracing individual actions
What Are The Benefits?
The numerous benefits include:
- Improved security
- Reduction in vulnerabilities
- Isolation of an attack to a specific location
- Improved reliability and stability
- Better prepared for auditing
One cannot be careful enough when it comes to enterprise IT security. There are always criminals or errors around the corner capable of bringing the system, meaning the business, to a halt. Or, things could be worse. Hence, the concept of least privilege must be the mainstay of every organization, implemented with rigor down to even temporary contractors.