Least Privilege Access

Least privilege access is crucial to a zero trust security strategy, which states that users, applications, and devices should only have the access and permissions that they need to do their jobs. Since the majority of data breaches compromise privileged access in some way, implementing least privilege access limits an organization’s risk of data breaches and other security incidents.

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How Modern Least-Privileged Access Works

Implementing least privilege requires the ability to restrict access to corporate resources based on the role of a user, device, or application within an organization. Key components of a least privilege access management strategy include identity authentication, segmentation, and device security posture tracking.

#1. Identity Authentication

Limiting users’ access to what they need for their job requires knowing who the user is and what their role is within the organization. The first step for implementing least privilege is strongly authenticating a user. From there, a user’s requests for access to corporate resources can be approved or denied based upon role-based access controls.

#2. Segmentation

Access controls are only useful if enforced, which means that requests pass through an access management system. While permissions can be managed by devices’ built-in permissioning systems, this approach is complex to manage and unscalable. A more scalable option is segmenting networks and limiting access across segment boundaries. Similarly, Virtual Private Networks (VPN) extend network segment access to remote workers. 

However, to implement least privilege access in line with zero trust principles, an organization needs the ability to create enforcement boundaries against each individual application, database, etc. Zero trust network access (ZTNA) provides the ability to do so at scale without administering independent and built-in permissioning systems or allowing broad access to whole network segments using an array of next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) and VPNs.

#3. Device Posture

Least privilege access should not be limited to user accounts. Restricting devices’ access to corporate resources can help to limit the impacts of infected devices.

Before devices are permitted to connect to the corporate network, they should be inspected to ensure that they are in compliance with corporate security policies and clean of infections. This inspection should be performed continuously to evaluate the level of risk posed by the device. The level of access permitted to the user and the device can then be based on the device’s current security posture.

Benefits of Least Privilege Access

Implementing least privilege can have significant benefits for an organization, including:

  • Reduced Security Risk: Many data breaches involve an attacker gaining access to a privileged account and abusing these privileges in their attack. By implementing least privilege, an organization makes it more difficult for an attacker to move laterally through the corporate network and gain the access and permissions required to achieve the objectives of their attack.
  • Simplified Regulatory Compliance: Access management is a core focus of many data protection regulations, and the scope of an organization’s compliance responsibilities depends on the devices and users that have access to sensitive and protected data. Implementing least privilege restricts access, making it easier to achieve and demonstrate regulatory compliance.
  • Improved Security Visibility: Enforcing least privilege access requires the ability to evaluate access requests and allow or deny them. This creates an audit log of access attempts that enables an organization to achieve greater visibility into how users and devices are using its resources.

How to Implement the Least Privilege in Your Organization

A least privilege access management policy can be implemented and enforced via these steps:

  • Manage Identities: Implementing least privilege consistently across the organization requires the ability to track and manage user identities across various applications and environments within the corporate network. This requires deploying an identity provider (IDP).
  • Deploy ZTNA: ZTNA services provide access to corporate resources while enforcing a zero-trust security strategy. This enables an organization to enforce its least privilege access policy.
  • Define Permissions: User permissions should be defined to restrict access based on a user’s role within the organization. This includes limiting privileged access and permitting users access only to the resources needed to do their jobs.
  • Monitor Device Security Posture: In addition to managing users’ permissions, organizations should also deploy solutions that can monitor a device’s current security posture. This makes it possible to restrict access to devices that are not compliant with corporate policy and that are potentially infected by malware.

Least Privilege Access with Harmony Connect

Organizations can implement least privilege access in various ways. However, with the growth of cloud computing and remote work, solutions designed to manage access primarily on on-prem networks are increasingly ineffective.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) provides the ability to implement and enforce consistent least privilege security policies across an organization’s on-prem and cloud-based assets. SASE solutions incorporate ZTNA functionality, ensuring that least-privilege security policies are enforced for all traffic flowing over the corporate WAN. Additionally, built-in traffic inspection capabilities enable SASE to detect and block malicious traffic.

Check Point’s Harmony Connect enables an organization to implement zero trust remote access at scale. Learn more about implementing least privilege in your organization by signing up for a free demo.

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