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Understanding Privileged Access Management and Why It's Important to Your Company

Cyber Security

Understanding Privileged Access Management and Why It's Important to Your Company

As businesses today grow increasingly digital, the risk of data breaches and other cyber threats also increases. Falling victim to such cyber-attacks can be devastating for any company, resulting in steep financial losses and reputational damage. Even for large and well-established enterprises, recovering from a security breach can be highly costly in terms of time and resources, and many smaller businesses simply never bounce back from having their data and systems compromised.

Investing in robust cybersecurity solutions is the best way for companies to prevent their sensitive information from being stolen by malicious parties. Privileged Access Management (PAM) is one of the most effective tools organizations can use to minimize security risks posed by their incumbent systems, employees, partners, vendors, and other third parties.

In this article, we’ll discuss PAM cybersecurity, why companies today should employ it, and the many ways it can improve data security at your organization.

How Does Privileged Access Management Work?

PAM can be best understood as an approach to cybersecurity that allows only privileged users to access critical company data and assets. A PAM system defines which applications, employees, vendors, and partner organizations should have access to specific sensitive information, giving companies more flexibility and control when managing data security. PAM solutions can also monitor the activity of users with privileged access and report any suspicious activity they observe within company systems.

Developing a functional PAM system entails much more than simply investing in the right software and identifying the company assets and data that require PAM. You also need a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that describes the different levels of privileged access your company will grant, as well as which employees, departments, and third parties receive each.

Why Should Companies Use PAM?

One compelling argument for PAM is that privileged users present the highest cybersecurity risk to organizations. This is because these users operate with few to no restrictions on their access to a company’s IT infrastructure, making them a tempting target for cybercriminals. Hackers and other bad actors will typically steal privileged users’ account credentials with phishing or malware and enter the organization’s infrastructure undetected. From there, they’re free to manipulate company systems and data for their own illicit purposes.

Maintaining privileged account security is also a challenging endeavor, especially for large organizations. Companies are constantly bringing in new people, systems, and technologies—and they’re under pressure to ensure that security stays tight as they do so. PAM offers organizations a simple way to manage fundamental security concerns, such as:

  • Tracking privileged users’ activity on company systems
  • Restricting privileged users’ access to the assets and information they require to perform their roles effectively
  • Providing users with temporary access to sensitive data when required and revoking these permissions when they’re no longer necessary
  • Preventing the illicit sharing or theft of company account credentials

What Are the Benefits of Using a PAM Solution?

PAM simplifies the work of managing ever-evolving, growing IT infrastructure and provides companies with all the tools necessary for restricting, revoking, and monitoring access to their systems. Here are just some of the specific ways PAM can help protect your company:

Limits Access to Sensitive Information

Current research has proven that controlling and closely supervising privileged user access is one of the most efficient ways to prevent security breaches. By streamlining the authorization and monitoring of users with elevated access to company systems, PAM helps prevent accidental or intentional misuse of these privileges. By making vital data accessible only to users who require it, when they require it, you significantly reduce the number of vulnerabilities that malicious parties can potentially exploit.

Makes Monitoring Suspicious Activity Easier

PAM systems collect information about the users and under what kinds of privileged accounts are accessing your assets and data at any given time. This means that if a data breach or some other security incident does occur, your PAM system should be able to show you how it happened and which accounts might have been responsible for it.

Centralizes Access to Company Systems and Data

As your organization grows, maintaining companywide awareness and visibility will probably become more challenging. Large organizations that work with a diverse pool of partners, applications, and employees tend to have larger attack surfaces as a result. You can use a PAM system to centralize asset visibility and monitoring, effectively creating a single source of truth that you and your employees can refer to anytime.

Prevents Hackers from Misusing Stolen Credentials

PAM systems today typically provides two-factor authentication (2FA), which provides an additional layer of security for accessing company data on top of traditional login/password access models. This means that even if hackers do manage to acquire your account credentials through the dark web, phishing methods, or other means, they won’t be able to use them to enter company systems and steal sensitive information if they don’t can’t bypass the second authentication requirement.

Facilitates Compliance

With a PAM cybersecurity system like what provides, you can create audit trails, configure access permissions, and set up multi-factor authentication. These functions will help your company comply with cybersecurity regulations and ensure that you have records of activity to present in the event of audits.

A PAM system helps facilitate better network security, asset protection, and even third-party risk management. It’s thus an essential tool to include in any cybersecurity strategy, no matter the implementing organization’s size or core industry.

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