APT Vehicle of Choice: The Accidental Insider

BeyondTrust, March 5th, 2012

APT is the buzzword everyone is using. Companies are concerned about it, the government is being compromised by it, and consultants are using it in every presentation they give. But people fail to realize that the vulnerabilities these threats compromise are the insider — not the malicious insider, but the accidental insider who clicks on the wrong link.Dr. Eric Cole, Cyber Security Expert

One of most talked about topics at the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco was Advanced Persistent Threats (APT). While APT is the latest hot topic involving security, one aspect that has received little visibility is its relationship to privileged identity management.

Any weakness in your infrastructure that allows an attacker to access a system will give him or her opportunity to find another weakness and eventually get the keys to the kingdom – privileged access to a critical server or database with sensitive information.

Look no further than the RSA security breach that occurred early last year. Hackers gained network access through the HR department by sending bogus emails to RSA employees with the subject, “2011 Recruiting Plan.” Because RSA failed to implement a least privilege solution, accidental insiders at the company helped hackers hijack credentials to steal sensitive information.

Accidental insiders are unfortunately commonplace throughout many organizations. Why? Because human nature dictates that we will make mistakes. What’s needed is a comprehensive program to protect privileged access. The tradeoffs everyone has historically made to allow some level of risk no longer apply. Even something as simple as the accidental misconfiguration of a desktop PC can be the weakness a sophisticated attacker uses to gain the access they need to the privileged credentials of a systems or database admin.