Can You Trust the Principle of Least Privilege?

Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege is a fundamental concept in cybersecurity that ensures users and systems only have the minimum necessary access to perform their job functions, thereby reducing potential damage from security breaches.

The more systems and network assets a user has access to, the greater the potential damage if that account is ever compromised or if they become an insider threat. The principle of least privilege is recognized as a best practice in cybersecurity. This article defines it, explains why it is important, and how your organization can implement the principle of least privilege.

What is Zero Trust?

In the bigger picture, the principle of least privilege is a key component of the Zero Trust security philosophy to protect sensitive business data from unauthorized access. Whereas older security models worked off the assumption that all network connections and users behind the company firewall could be trusted, Zero Trust assumes threats may emerge from inside as well as outside the organization.

Zero Trust verifies the privileges and permissions of everyone and everything trying to connect to systems every time before granting access.

What is the Principle of Least Privilege?

The principle of least privilege (PoLP) refers to a part of the Zero Trust security concept in which an entity is given only the minimum level of network clearance to access systems and data needed to perform a job, and nothing more.

Least privilege access applies not only to people, but also to applications, systems, and networked devices that must interact with each other. It prevents users and systems from accessing resources beyond their responsibility, and limits what they can do with the ones they are allowed to use.

For example, a user or app charged with maintaining customer account information may be able to do that but not install or upgrade new CRM software. Similarly, an app developer cannot access company bank accounts.

Advantages of the Principle of Least Privilege

  • Reduces the cyberattack surface. By limiting user privileges and reserving access to sensitive data to fewer individuals, organizations lower the number of possible entry points into the system and limit the level of a cybercriminal’s lateral access if a credential becomes compromised.
  • Restricts the spread of malware. In the event a system is breached, PoLP blocks the ability of the malware code to infect systems not accessible by the owner of the compromised account.
  • Minimizes insider threats. Current or former disgruntled employees, partners, contractors, and suppliers with network access cannot access systems beyond their level of authorization.
  • Enhances regulatory compliance. PoLP helps organizations protect sensitive data and demonstrate compliance with regulatory and industry frameworks such as GDPR, HIPAA and SOX by providing a full audit trail of activities.
  • Improves end-user productivity. Prevents users from accidentally venturing into areas of network operations where they should not tread and keeps IT helpdesk calls to a minimum. Some security providers support just-in-time access elevation, a capability that allows users to access privileged accounts or run privileged commands on a temporary basis.
  • Prevents privilege creep. PoLP removes security loopholes that arise when employees change roles in the organization yet retain access rights to systems in their previous function, which ties back to efforts to reduce the company’s attack surface.

Implementing the Principle of Least Privilege

Effective least privilege enforcement starts by clearly defining which entities (people, systems, and devices) can access different levels of company data and systems based on their assigned job function. This is known as Role-Based Access Control (RBAC).

The next step is to install a password management solution, organize the users/entities into role-based groups or teams, and then share the proper credentials with each group. Regular auditing of group members is highly recommended to minimize password accumulation/creep and to remove users no longer associated with the business.

Some password managers recommend adding the use of a Privileged Account Management (PAM) extension as part of their overall solution to monitor and manage accounts with access to the most sensitive company data and secrets.

Make the Most of the Principle of Least Privilege with Passpack

At Passpack, we believe that every account is a privileged account and that a PAM only adds another unnecessary management layer to the security stack.

With the Passpack Password Manager app, companies of all shapes and sizes can organize their passwords and credentials for all entities using a single solution. While the king or queen may have greater user permissions than a pawn, all pieces on the chessboard must be equally defensed.

Passpack implements the same level of security and least privilege across all users through the concept of centralized password management and discreet teams for an unlimited number of passwords and users.

Tightly control user groups with 100% visibility into all password-related activities. Set consistent rules for secure password creation, use/expiration, and sharing. Eliminate password creep by easily adding or removing individual permissions and users as needed without impacting other team members’ or entities’ access rights.

The Passpack platform employs Zero Trust security architecture, and our unique Packing Key technology essentially makes every account a privileged account without adding more layers and costs to your cyber defenses.

Give your employees, partners, contractors and suppliers access to the information they need, and only the information they absolutely need with Passpack. The one password manager that does it all.

Can you trust the principle of least privilege? You can with Passpack. But don’t just take our word for it – try it without obligation. Sign up for a 28-day free trial of the Passpack Business Plan and see how easy it is to implement the principle of least privilege and keep your business secure.

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