Avecto Ltd, the leader in Windows privilege management, today revealed how removing user admin rights, through a policy of 'least privilege', could have prevented the recent cyber-attack on the IMF systems.

Whilst very few details of the major cyber-attack on the IMF systems earlier this month have been released, it is highly likely that end user activity unknowingly played a key role in the event. It appears that the attack aimed to install software on the system to create a 'digital insider presence' and took place over a period of months. The hack used a technique known as 'spear phishing' which tricks users into clicking on web links in their emails or opening and running programs that give access to the users network.

Despite an e-mail from IMF chief information officer, Jonathan Palmer, warning of increased phishing activity, employees unwittingly continued to access malicious web links through unsolicited or spoof emails, which set the attack in motion.

Preventing users from making unwanted desktop changes without restricting them from performing their job function continues to be a serious challenge for almost all organizations. Striking a balance between providing users with a degree of control over their desktop configuration and protecting the standard desktop build is difficult, as this control often results in granting admin rights to a user.

Mark Austin, chief technology officer at Avecto comments, "In a connected age, it is almost impossible for large corporations to police all web and email activity, opting in many instances to trust users to be more vigilant and take the right course of action. The nature of an automation attack relies on someone, somewhere, making the wrong decision and opening the doorway for attackers. However, by moving to a least privilege desktop, corporations can significantly reduce their attack surface whilst maintaining the level of flexibility that users require to perform their roles."

Additionally, data extracted from Microsoft's vulnerability reports confirm that the removal of admin rights from Windows users is a mitigating factor for over 90% of critical vulnerabilities.

Avecto's Privilege Guard enables organizations to empower users through a policy of 'least privilege', which ensures they remain productive wherever they are, without impacting the security posture of corporate systems.

Update: Privilege Guard is now Defendpoint

Privilege Guard has now evolved into the new security suite, Defendpoint, which encompasses Privilege Management, Application Control and Sandboxing. For more information, please visit www.avecto.com/defendpoint.