Least Privilege Legacy Apps and the Desktop “Wild West”: Part 3

BeyondTrust, January 31st, 2011

This week we report the conclusions of our recent survey of 185 IT Administrators and Help Desk Operatives, in a report ‘Legacy Applications and Least Privilege Access Management’ which reveals the way legacy apps leave Windows desktop environments unnecessarily exposed to attack from malware, as well as providing an open door to insider threats.

Today we look at the significant cost and time impact of managing users who have been given too many privileges because of the legacy applications they need to use to effectively do their job.

What’s interesting here, is that without exception, IT Admins and Help Desk personnel, in organizations of all sizes, say they spend more than 1/4 of their time fixing problems caused by over-privileged users.   In fact the average amount of time spent fixing these problems was 29%.  Almost a third of their time, spent fixing problems, whether that be accidental errors – the so called fat fingered key stroke – or unintended errors, whereby simple actions like downloading apps from the next leaves the desktop susceptible to malware which can assume the users administrators rights and use them to access the whole network.

Not only do IT Administrators know this is an expensive use of their time – Gartner’s recent report, Organizations That Unlock PCs Unnecessarily Will Face High Costs, shows that when a user is standard user, the amount of IT labor needed for technical support is 24% or $1200 per desktop less than when a desktop user is an administrator  – it’s also a really poor use of their time.

They’d much prefer to be doing other things.  Indeed, an overwhelming 90% of all our respondents said they’d much rather automate the process of elevating privileges, and use the money they would save on either training staff or upgrading software.  In essence, the experience of IT Administrators and Help Desk operatives are legion; they want to spend more time improving user experience, with better training and software, and less time fighting fires.

Fortunately, the fault is not the legacy applications.  Business need not give up the applications they need to run business as usual.  The fault is the lack of awareness of just how easy it is to automate the elevation of privilege user access at a granular level, based on the role definition of each employee.