There are many solutions for managing privileged accounts in data center environments. But what do you do when it comes to host accounts?
Virtual hosts need the same protective mechanisms as those in the data center. While the IT security and requirements of these endpoints are usually no different from on-premise hosts, the administrative interfaces to these critical cloud environments are often left unmonitored.
Let’s take a look at two common cloud security challenges: a lack of user activity monitoring and weak passwords.
To learn more on how to reduce risk in the cloud, request a personalized demo of PowerBroker Password Safe.
Built-in controls lack user activity monitoring
Some cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, have granular built-in identity and access management controls to provide role-based separation of administrative control. This allows users to log in with a specific scope across a range of systems. However, cloud services don’t tell you exactly what the users were doing when they were logged on to the session. The situation is compounded if identities are shared, because identifying which user was actually logged on when activity occurred can be extremely difficult.
Shared account passwords are weak and uncontrolled
Shared accounts present an even greater risk when users leave the organization. Take this example: an ESX admin with shared root credentials to a server needs to be inside the corporate firewall in order to access the vSphere administrative interface. A Microsoft Azure admin, by comparison, can generally access the Azure Management Console from anywhere – all that’s needed is a valid set of credentials, and a window of opportunity. These credentials may potentially control hundreds (or even tens of thousands) of virtual hosts.
Take Control and Mitigate your Cloud Risk in Three Steps
1) Make sure that administrators never know the password.
The ideal scenario would be to use a tool that automatically rotates the credentials with a strong, complex password based on your organization’s security policy. This password would then have to be automatically played into a web browser in order to gain access to the virtual cloud environment’s administrative interface. Even without the ability to play it in, the ability to release the password to the user, and then reset it after the session, ensures that the credentials are time limited.
2) Centralize password rotation.
Many administrative consoles lack the ability to connect to external password management systems, so a parallel step is to make sure that one person in the organization is responsible for manually changing the administrative credentials, and then making sure that they are stored in a secure password release system. This limits the risk factor and makes sure that a few individuals only know credentials. In these cases, playing in the credentials automatically becomes even more critical.
3) Monitor and audit all privileged sessions.
Most cloud environments lack the ability to track user activity, so this generally falls to external mechanisms. At a minimum, a video recording provides accountability, and can map actions performed under a shared account to a specific individual. Adding keystroke recording enables a user’s session logs to be searched, although this can become moot in a typical point-and-click administrative interface. Live session monitoring is a bonus that provides dual control capabilities, often with the ability to terminate suspicious activity.
PowerBroker Password Safe enables secure credential storage, advanced workflow control, auto-launch and session recording for administrative sessions to Azure, Amazon (AWS), GoGrid, Google, Office 365, and Rackspace, as well as social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and XING. For true dual-control, PowerBroker Password Safe allows administrative activities to be monitored in real-time. Password Safe not only enables the remote termination of these sessions, but also has the ability to pause (or lock) a session that is already in progress.
With capabilities such as these from PowerBroker Password Safe, organizations can reduce cloud security risk, enabling greater cloud adoption. If you would like to learn more about how Password Safe can help, request a personalized demo.
Martin has been helping organizations solve challenges in the privileged account management and identity and access management space for over 24 years. At Dell Software, Martin managed a team of Solution Architects, focused on designing and implementing solutions in the Privileged Account Management (PAM) space. Prior to joining Dell, Martin was Sr. Product Manager for Novell Privileged User Manager, a privilege management application acquired from Fortefi, an organization where he served as Vice President, Corporate Development. Prior to this, he was Program Manager of Client Technologies at Symantec where he was responsible for many ground-breaking field and channel enablement applications. Additionally, Martin managed the European QA group at Axent Technologies and has held various management positions in consulting, systems development, and operations. Martin is a regular speaker for security events, and webinars.