IT spends much of its efforts securing servers, applications, and data, placing multiple layers of security into production, in an effort to ensure inappropriate access is never achieved. You may not even realize you’re using a layered approach, since many of the security methods are ones that you simply take for granted today.
Take, for example, a single file that contains a ton of valuable information… Where is it stored? On a server physically locked in a server room--stored within the file server on a permission-based file system with access restrictions placed on it (so only a few users can access it), only connected to using a share-based method (that employs its own security measures), potentially restricted further through digital rights management. In addition, that server is protected with patching, firewall settings, antivirus/anti-malware, etc. It’s a layered approach that ensures that single file (among all the other files on that server) is secure.
If the scenario above sounds about right to you, you’re a believer in the layered security approach and don’t even know it!
Passwords, like any sensitive piece of information, should be protected using a number of methods as well. For some of you, your passwords are secured with little more than knowing which excel spreadsheet they’re stored in. But, when you consider the value those privileged password have – especially in the hands of the malicious external attacker or even a disgruntled insider – you can see how privileged passwords need more of a layered security approach to ensure appropriate access and usage.
Privileged passwords can be secured using layers that address the following issues:
- Who has access to a privileged account’s password?
- Where can that password be used? Is it on a single server or everywhere?
- When can the password be used? Working hours? After hours?
- How can the password be used? Over an RDP connection? Using a secure proxy?
- What kinds of accountability are in place to ensure proper use? Approvals? Notifications?
Thinking about privileged password security in these terms provides you with context around the layers that need to be in place.
Remember, not every password requires the same number of protective layers. A file used by the marketing department still has some level of security around it that keeps all non-marketing personnel from accessing it, but once in Marketing, anyone there can use it. In the same way, you may have a password that provides a small amount of elevated access to, say, a single application. This specific password may only need the Who and Where restrictions put in place.
Begin thinking about what layers are necessary as part of your privileged password security strategy, and how you will implement those layers. By putting a layered approach in place, you strengthen your company’s security stance, protecting it from misuse of privileged accounts by both internal and external offenders.
Nick Cavalancia, Founder/Chief, Techvangelism
Nick Cavalancia has over 20 years of enterprise IT experience, 10 years as a tech marketing executive and is an accomplished technology writer, consultant, trainer, speaker, and columnist.
Nick has attained industry certifications including MCNE, MCNI, MCSE and MCT and was once accused at TechEd of "not having enough digits" in his MCP number (which only has 5). He has authored, co-authored and contributed to over a dozen books on Windows, Active Directory, Exchange and other Microsoft technologies and has spoken at many technical conferences on a wide variety of topics.
Previously, Nick has held executive marketing positions at ScriptLogic (acquired by Quest, now DELL Software), SpectorSoft and Netwrix where he was responsible for the global messaging, branding, lead generation and demand generation strategies to market technology solutions to an IT-centric customer base.