Where to Begin? A 7-Step Strategy to Achieving Complete Privileged Access Management

Customers in the throes of deploying their privileged access management solutions often ask us, “What’s next?” Whether it is a greenfield deployment, an expanding BeyondTrust footprint or a competitive switch-out, having a plan – a target end state – is essential. If the old maxim, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail” is true, then you must begin every privileged account management project with the end in mind. The end state should be a mature environment that enables:

Get started now - learn more on how to construct your complete privileged access management strategy with this strategy guide "Seven Steps to Complete Privileged Access Management"

In our 25+ years in the business, we’ve devised the following 7-step strategy to achieving complete privileged access management. This process minimizes costs and distractions, and speeds results.

Step 1: Improve Accountability and Control Over Privileged Passwords

The most logical starting point for gaining greater control over privileges is by improving accountability over privileged passwords. Not effectively managing shared accounts is a problem that has significant scale and risks. Consider the results of our recent survey, The 5 Deadly Sins of Privileged Access Management. The results clearly revealed a problem in managing privileged passwords. When asked to list the top threats associated with passwords, respondents listed employees sharing passwords with colleagues (79%), employees not changing default passwords their devices ship with (76%), and using weak passwords like "12345" (75%). Despite knowing better, respondents admitted that many of these same bad practices are common within their organization. A third of the respondents reported that users routinely share passwords with each other, and a fourth reported the use of weak passwords. Shockingly, one in five reported that many users don’t even change the default passwords!

You don’t have to look much further than recent breaches to understand the implications. With this capability organizations can discover all of the accounts in their environment, place those accounts under management, and satisfy auditor requests that accounts are now managed.

Step 2: Implement Privilege Management and Application Control for Windows and Mac Desktops

Once accounts and assets have been discovered and are being consistently managed, the next step to complete privileged account management is implementing least privilege on end-user machines. We recommend reducing risk on desktops before servers (such as Windows, Unix or Linux as indicated in step 4) as the endpoint is typically the first mile of security. Why? Look no further than a recent stat that said that 94% of Microsoft system vulnerabilities could have been mitigated by reducing privileges.

Step 3: Leverage Application-Level Risk to Make Better Privilege Decisions

Now that shared credentials are under management and end users have the privileges they need to perform their jobs – and nothing more – you can move to a better understanding of vulnerabilities to help make better-informed privilege elevation decisions. Vulnerability-based application management is patented technology that automatically scans applications for vulnerabilities at run time – triggering alerts, reducing application privileges, or preventing launch altogether based on policy.

Step 4: Implement Privilege Management in Unix and Linux Server Environments

Business critical, tier-1 applications are attractive targets for adversaries. Accessing privileged user credentials for these resources can provide access to ecommerce data, ERP systems managing employee data, customer information, and sensitive financial data. With the capability to efficiently delegate Unix and Linux privileges and authorization without disclosing passwords for root or other accounts, you gain complete control over root access to Unix and Linux systems and get rid of sudo.

Wait. Get rid of sudo? Yep. Remember that 5 Deadly Sins survey we mentioned above, in step 1? Privileged passwords weren’t the only perceived weakness. Two-thirds of respondents say managing least privilege for Unix/Linux servers is somewhat to extremely important. One popular option is sudo. However, just 29 percent say sudo meets their needs. The most commonly cited problems with sudo include being time-consuming to use (32%), complexity (31%), and poor version control (29%). Despite this, the typical respondent runs sudo on 40 workstations and 25 servers. It just doesn’t do the job, folks.

Step 5: Unify Management, Policy, Reporting and Threat Analytics Under a Single Pane of Glass

It is no secret that IT and security professionals are overloaded with privilege, vulnerability and attack information. By unifying privileged account management and vulnerability management solutions, you can provide IT and security teams a single, contextual lens through which to view and address user and asset risk.

Step 6: Integrate Unix, Linux and Mac into Windows

Think back to step 4 for a moment. Once you have greater control over privileged access in Unix and Linux environments, the next logical step is to bring Unix and Linux systems under consistent management, policy, and single sign-on. This capability will enable simplified configuration management and policy for non-Windows systems, limit the number of logins required, and will help improve security and the user experience.

Step 7: Real-Time Change Auditing and Recovery for Windows Environments

Once you have your non-Windows systems integrated into Active Directory, the next step is to audit user activity to gain additional insight into AD changes that could impact the business. With this capability, you gain detailed, real-time auditing of AD environments, and the ability to restore unwanted changes.

BeyondTrust has defined what a complete privileged account management solution looks like, creating a holistic program and tying it all together with the PowerBroker Privileged Access Management platform. To realize the full benefit of BeyondTrust’s privileged access management solutions, utilize the platform, and then take control of accounts, assets, users, systems and activity.

If you would like to learn more on how to construct your complete privileged access management strategy, check out our solution whitepaper or contact us today for a strategy session.