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Why CISOs Need Privilege Account Management

CISOs Need Privilege
Credit: Geralt / Pixabay

Cyber security is a topic of great concern for business officials all over the world. With so many incidents of data breaches and cyber-attacks, even private individuals today know the importance of keeping their systems secure from the different kinds of threats. So it is only natural that cyber security is an issue all business corporations, whether big or small, focus greatly on. In an age where software solutions like cloud computing are the fastest emerging technologies to handle the enormous amount of data stores or ‘big data’ of major corporations, it is vital that such data stores be kept really secure.

This is why all major corporations have professional IT teams helping them out with their security concerns. Business officials and CEOs are frequently found discussing the security aspects of their company’s systems with their IT team, constantly sweating over the issue of cyber security. Statistics from the industries even show that according to 80 percent of board members, cyber security is the topic of discussion in almost all meetings.

The Chief Information Security Officer in any company, therefore, has come to be regarded as one of the most important members of the company. CISOs, along with their team, employ a wide array of security measures to ensure that their company is protected from cyber-attacks.

Privileged Accounts

Developing a system that allows different levels of access to different employees of the company is a common practice, with high-level officials and system administrators granted privileged accounts with high permissions. These privileged accounts can belong to the administrators who are responsible for overlooking of the security software, or to the CEOs and other high-ranking employees who have access to almost all of the corporation’s data.

In the case of the privileged accounts belonging to the administrator, the account holder can view system details and statistics that are obviously not visible to anyone else. Also, if this is the case, there is a high chance that the actions of the administrator are not recorded, for he is the one who manages the entire system. Such a concentration of power can backfire.

For instance, if a hacker was to gain access to one such privileged account, the entire company’s data would be at the mercy of the attacker. Gaining access to privileged accounts is something hackers often aim for as it gives them a huge head start in their task of phishing for and manipulating critical company data.

Privileged Account Management

Going by the risk of privileged accounts as discussed above, it is easy to understand why privilege account management is an absolute must for CISOs. However, understanding the need for it is just half the job, for successful implementation of privileged account management is hardly as easy as understanding its need is.

The main problem is that many times, privileged accounts do not belong to real users, and are also quite commonly shared by more than one administrator. The case of San Francisco’s Rogue System Administrator, where an entire system was locked down by the creator of the system using a single password, is a clear indication that having a group of personnel performing privileged tasks is always a good bet. While dividing the job and access control among a few individuals is a good practice to ensure that no one person has unmatched user and control access to the system, it does mean that more people share a privileged account.

Therefore, managing such accounts proves to be an arduous task more often than not. But there are a few tools out on the market that can help make the job easier.

Some of these tools use methods like checking out the account password by the administrator or frequent changing of the password to enforce privilege account management. Although this is an overhead and comes at a substantial cost, it is something that is absolutely necessary.

Besides using external tools for privileged account management, there are some security practices that can be implemented so as to make sure that privilege accounts do not become power and security bottlenecks for the company. As discussed earlier, it is always wiser to divide the task of administration and maintenance among a group of individuals to ensure that no one person has unlimited access to the system.

Another good practice is to monitor the activity of privileged users. Since privileged users have unrestricted access to system resources in case of administrators and sensitive company data in case of high-ranking employees, it is imperative that their actions are recorded to make sure that they do not involve themselves in malpractice. Last, but not the least, is the password management. Passwords should not only be kept ultra-secure in the case of privileged accounts, but they should also be frequently changed to prevent their theft and subsequent compromising of the privileged account.

Conclusion

Privileged account management is quite necessary for CISOs in today’s world, for privileged accounts are the weakest links in the security system of a company owing to the fact that they have high levels of permissions and access to data. In the continuous effort to ward off any cyber-attack from an outside hacker, it is quite devastating for the company’s reputation as well as security if the threat comes from within the organization.

It might be the situation that a mistake on behalf of a privileged account user creates a gaping hole in the security system and becomes the point of attack for the hackers. This is the cause why it is important to log and monitor the activity of privileged account users. People using such accounts can cause many things to happen like locking everyone out of the system, just like Terry Childs did in San Francisco in 2008.

Other than logging privileged accounts, there are tools that offer well-privileged account management. Some of these products have become popular in the market due to the need for privileged account management. The fact that more than 2000 companies have already implemented such products speaks itself for the need for CISOs to have privileged account management.

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