Be All You Can Be (Privileges Not Required)

Morey Haber, Chief Technology Officer
October 1st, 2018

Be all you can be” was a marketing slogan for the US Army from 1980 to 2001, projecting an image of dedication and strength to recruit new individuals. It was one of the longest standing slogans for Uncle Sam and still serves as a reminder of the power of marketing, even for enlisting individuals in the military.

One important facet of the campaign and the dozens of TV commercials that went with it, was the use of technology and military equipment by warfighters during various missions. In 1980, the concept of securing credentials was a fleeting thought since computing technology was only available in specialized raised floor environments. We had just started the personal computer era. By the time the slogan was sunset, however, personal computers had been introduced, mobile phones were in use, and Microsoft Windows was the standard desktop operating system almost everywhere. During this 20-year period, we started to become aware that “be all you can be” required privileges to access systems and applications, and if abused, could cause devastation. (Remember, Windows 95 and 98 allowed us to even bypass login screens (for non-domain systems) simply by hitting the Escape key.) Everyone, everything, and most applications themselves, had the same privileges. You had access, or you did not. Very binary at best.

Today, the paradigm is different. You do not need privileged or administrative credentials to “be all you can be”. The concepts behind privileged access management (PAM) and least privileged access enable individuals or applications to have administrator access but the user is unaware of the accounts, passwords, and privileges assigned to perform their mission. For example, a Microsoft SQL Administrator does not need to know the credentials of a local account, SQL account, or domain account to launch MS SQL Studio and perform administrative functions.

For those of you not familiar with PAM, this one of its primary use cases: The secure access to an application and/or host with administrative rights to perform tasks aligned with their role (mission) without them even knowing the credentials used to get there. This is performed using a highly secure design, multiple metrics for account and identity verification, and context-aware authentication to ensure that a threat actor cannot comprise the system. This allows the individual to truly be all they can be but without giving them privileged credentials. This minimizes the risk, secures the asset, and allows modern technology to be used for any mission or task using a role-based access model beyond what is natively available. If this was wrapped around Windows 95 or 98 like previously stated, a threat actor could not even get to the Login Prompt to hit escape and bypass the flawed security model.

Be all you can be is not just an old US Army slogan when used with PAM. It allows individuals to perform their mission, just without excessive privileges. It secures credentials, access, privileges, applications, and even performs session monitoring when the most sensitive systems are under management – a key component for training and indicators of compromise.

If you would like to learn more about how your teams can be all they can be without privileges, contact us today. BeyondTrust has a portfolio of PAM solutions that are Common Criteria EAL2 certified and can help governments and highly secure environments realize the benefits of technology–but without the risks of excessive privileged access.

Morey Haber, Chief Technology Officer

With more than 20 years of IT industry experience and author of Privileged Attack Vectors, Mr. Haber joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition. He currently oversees BeyondTrust technology for both vulnerability and privileged access management solutions. In 2004, Mr. Haber joined eEye as the Director of Security Engineering and was responsible for strategic business discussions and vulnerability management architectures in Fortune 500 clients. Prior to eEye, he was a Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. (CA), responsible for new product beta cycles and named customer accounts. Mr. Haber began his career as a Reliability and Maintainability Engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. He earned a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.