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.
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.
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.
Implementing least privilege can have significant benefits for an organization, including:
A least privilege access management policy can be implemented and enforced via these steps:
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.