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Demystifying PAM Solution Features – What You Need to Know

The security landscape is becoming increasingly complex. Protecting your organization from cyberattacks requires more than technology alone.

It would help to have a strong security strategy considering people, processes, and technology. Privileged access management (PAM) is one of the most important cybersecurity solutions for reducing risk and achieving a relevant security return on investment.

Authentication

Authentication is a key component of PAM. A good PAM solution features multiple authentication methods, ensuring only authorized users can access your sensitive information systems. This helps ensure that even if one of your employees becomes a victim of cybercriminals, they cannot take over the system and steal data or assets.

It should also support granular security policies. A good PAM solution will allow you to define your organization’s different kinds of local, domain-level, guest, and admin accounts and assign them each unique security control, permissions, and monitoring requirements. This granularity makes it easier to protect your organization from the vulnerabilities and threats that arise from remote or work-from-home situations.

An effective PAM solution should also include the ability to manage the lifecycle of privileged accounts. This includes enforcing the Principle of Least Privilege, implementing temporary privilege escalation instead of granting users perpetual privileges, and using temporary certificates for authentication. These tools can help ensure that a hacker does not have access to your system once they gain access by using stolen credentials.

It is crucial to look for a PAM solution beyond basic password management and provides a one-stop shop for securing, controlling, and managing privileged user accounts, credentials, and sessions. This will help you prevent security incidents, reduce your risk of data loss, theft, or breach, and achieve compliance with regulatory mandates more easily.

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Access Management

PAM is about controlling privileged access not just to human users but to non-human user accounts and machines. It’s about segregating and protecting impersonal, high-privilege credentials and providing secure storage and complete usage traceability. It reduces risks by monitoring privileged access, logging all activity, and alerting IT admins of anomalous session behavior or user actions.

Increasingly, organizations are working with external technology vendors or employees who need to access systems and applications to do their work remotely. Those third-party users can create additional vulnerabilities in the IT infrastructure and pose different types of threats than regular corporate employees. An efficient PAM solution should monitor and control remote access for all external users to help shrink the attack surface.

Effective PAM solutions enable IT admins to create, grant, and revoke access as needed while maintaining security and compliance. They should also provide a quick and easy user account lockout feature in a security emergency.

Session Management

Whether it’s a multi-step social engineering operation or a fueled phishing attack, advanced threats require sophisticated detection capabilities. The best PAM solutions go beyond simple access management and provide powerful security features for privileged user session management and threat monitoring.

Session management lets you track every privileged account activity from start to finish. It even provides a second pair of eyes to increase confidence that PAM policies are being followed and to mitigate the risk of internal and external cyber attackers using compromised credentials. You can detect unauthorized or suspicious behavior, such as excessive mouse movements, non-standard connection source addresses, and other anomalies that indicate privileged account abuse.

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In addition, session management also enables you to record and manage the lifecycle of privileged access sessions by defining and configuring access policy and providing secure storage and full-use traceability. For example, session management may include domain administrative accounts, break glass (emergency) accounts, local privileged accounts that can be used for maintenance on workstations and servers, service account accounts for applications and other services that run on a system, and other privileged machine identities.

You can also set the number of sessions a consumer can have at any given time and force logout when their session expires. Session IDs are unique and tied to the consumer’s profile so that when you search for a specific session, you only get the results related to that specific authenticated user.

Reporting

In addition to enabling privileged access management, PAM solutions enable granular reporting. This includes recording and displaying commands, session activity, and other information in a searchable format for IT teams. This can simplify audit and compliance requirements for SOC2, SOX, PCI DSS 3.2, HIPAA, FISMA, GDPR, and CCPA.

This aims to enable privileged access security to be aligned with operational performance and prevent data breaches. Privileged access management reduces risks by restricting the privilege granted to users, accounts, and devices to only what they need for their work. This approach, known as the principle of least privilege, helps to reduce the risk of unauthorized activities that can lead to cybersecurity breaches.

Cyber attackers exploit local admin accounts for quick and easy access to critical IT infrastructure and sensitive information. These account types are typically found on endpoints and workstations, providing admin access to local systems. Removing these local administrator accounts can help reduce your business’s vulnerability to attacks.

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An effective PAM solution can remove these local administrator accounts and store passwords in a vault for secure storage. This will enable you to control who has access, how long they have it, and at what time. It can also enable you to set up alerts and respond quickly to any deviations in account usage.

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