Privileged access management (PAM) is a security practice designed to limit the risk posed by privileged accounts on an organization’s network and systems. Administrator accounts, highly privileged application and system accounts, and other accounts with wide-reaching access or elevated permissions pose a significant threat to the organization. By applying additional security controls on these accounts, an organization manages the risk associated with them.
In most cases, the success of a cyberattack requires the malware or cyber threat actor behind the attack to achieve a certain level of access or permissions. For example, an effective ransomware attack requires access to valuable and sensitive data that an organization is likely to pay a significant ransom to retrieve.
This need for elevated permissions and access means that privileged accounts are a primary target for cyber threat actors. PAM is essential because it enables an organization to decrease the probability that an attacker will successfully gain the access that they need without detection. Additionally, implementing PAM is essential to complying with regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and similar data privacy laws whose primary purpose is to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
PAM is based on the principle of least privilege, which states that users, applications, and systems should only have the permissions that are necessary to do their jobs. Additionally, users with a legitimate need for privileged access, such as system and network administrators, should only use those privileged accounts for activities that require this elevated access.
After ensuring least privilege access, PAM focuses on securing privileged accounts against unauthorized access and potential misuse. This includes ensuring that these accounts use strong authentication mechanisms and performing ongoing monitoring to ensure that legitimate users are compliant with corporate policy and do not misuse or abuse their elevated level of access.
Implementing PAM provides numerous benefits to an organization including the following:
Some best practices for implementing PAM within an organization include:
As organizations increasingly adopt hybrid and remote work policies and cloud-based infrastructure, secure remote access becomes essential. However, many remote access solutions, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), lack built-in support for PAM. This leaves an organization’s systems vulnerable to exploitation as attackers take advantage of unsecured and unmonitored privileged accounts.
Check Point’s Harmony Connect Remote Access implements PAM and SSO, including the ability to integrate with identity providers, built-in management of encryption and authentication keys, and secure credential vaulting. As a ZTNA solution, Harmony Connect uses granular security controls to allow or block access requests on a case-by-case basis, limits user application visibility based on need-to-know to minimize lateral movement, and offers real-time security monitoring and policy enforcement.
To learn more about implementing PAM for secure remote access, check out this guide to implementing ZTNA. Then, feel free to sign up for a free demo of Check Point Harmony Connect Remote Access to see the security benefits of PAM for yourself.