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A Comprehensive Guide to Privileged Access Management (PAM)

Privileged access management—finding the right balance between security and convenience. This blog explains why PAM matters, highlights its key features and strategies that the organization should use to ensure the proper implementation of PAM.

Bhavya Tugnawat
Bhavya Tugnawat
August 26, 2021
5 min read

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Privileged Access Management (PAM) includes cyber security strategies and technologies for applying control over the privileged access and permission for users, accounts, processes, and systems across an environment.

By appropriately giving privileged access control, PAM can help organizations control and reduce the possibility of the attack from third parties and prevent the internal carelessness of the individual. PAM is not only applicable to a human being, but it also applies to the non-humans such as application and machine identity.

Example:

Let's consider an admin account. So what does a PAM do? It will take the privileged account credentials and put them in a secure place or in the vault, which will isolate the use of the privileged account credentials, reducing the risk of any attacks or misleadings.

Since it was kept inside the repository, the system administrator will need to go to the PAM system to access their credentials. When they request access to credentials, they will be authenticated at different levels.

Once all the authentication is done, they will be provided access to their credentials. Also, once these credentials are put in the repository, all their processes will be reset, and for the subsequent time, all methods need to be repeated to get the credentials.

What are the Different Types of Privileged Access Management Accounts?

The following are the different types of Privilege Access management accounts:

1. Local Administrative Accounts

These are the shared accounts that provide admin access to the local host or session only. The IT staff typically uses these accounts to perform maintenance or set up the new workstations.

2. Privileged User Accounts

These are the users that are granted administrative privileges to systems. Privileged User Accounts are among the most common types of accounts that have access granted on an enterprise domain. These give administrative rights to one or more systems.

Generally, these accounts have unique and complex passwords, but most of the time are protected by passwords alone. These are the types of accounts that should be monitored closely. And these are the accounts that sometimes do not belong to the individual user instead of that they are shared among the multiple admins.

3. Domain Admin Accounts

These super admin accounts have access to all the organization's workstations, and it provides the most extensive access across the network. They can modify the membership of every administrative account within the domain. These accounts are under the attacker's radar and should be monitored closely, and PAM should be implemented here.

4. Service Accounts

It is the type of accounts that are privileged local or domain accounts that are used by the application or service to interact with the operating system. In some cases, these service accounts have administrative privileges on domains depending on the requirements of the application they are used for.

5. Emergency Accounts

It is the type of account that provides the unprivileged users with admin access in case of emergency to protect the system. They are also called 'firecall' or 'break glass accounts. Access to this account requires the organization's IT management team approval. Most of the time, this is a manual process because of which it rarely lacks any security measures.

What are the Features of a PAM software?

We have already discussed why Privileged Access Management (PAM) is useful for organizations that are growing or have an extensive IT system within the organization itself.

Now, let's discuss the features that the PAM software provides:

  • It provides the Multi-Factor Authentication service for the administrators.
  • It has an access manager that stores all the information about permissions and privileged user information.
  • As we know, in PAM, passwords are stored in secret places or vaults, So this is also provided by the PAM itself.
  • It also provides the facility of dynamic authorization, which means access to individual users for a particular period.
  • It also has automatic provisioning and deprovisioning, which helps reduce insider threats, and the Audit logs feature that allows the organization to meet the compliance requirements.

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Common Strategies that the Organization Should Use to Ensure the Proper Implementation of PAM

There are some common strategies that every organization that uses the PAM should follow for the proper implementation of PAM Software, and those strategies are:

  • An organization should maintain the proper inventory of all privileged accounts.
  • Organizations should not give administrative access for sharing the accounts.
  • Every organization should enforce or use the password policy for creating any password.
  • Give access to the privileged account to the limited members.
  • Use the different types of tools and monitoring systems to gather the proper knowledge of what the privileged users are doing.
  • Update employees about changes in privileged access policies and procedures to ensure they understand how to use and manage their privileged credentials correctly.
  • All organizations should maintain the proper documentation of account management rules and processes.

What's the Difference Between Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Privileged Access Management?

Privileged access management is always considered one of the parts of identity and access management (IAM). However, identity and privilege are both interlinked with each other.

Identity management refers to the people like you, your boss, or the organization's IT management team are examples. These people are responsible for creating, updating, or even deleting attributes. The main reason for IAM is having one digital identity per user, and once this identity is established it must be maintained, modified, and monitored.

Privileged Access Management is a part of IAM. Here, PAM help's the IAM in helping manage entitlements, not only of individual users but also shared accounts such as super users, administrative, and service accounts.

A PAM is a tool that manages and protects all privileged accounts. It also provides a unified, robust, and—importantly—transparent platform integrated into an organization's overall identity and access management (IAM) strategy.

While PAM deals explicitly with privileged accounts, Identity and Access Management deals with all the types of users and identities in an organization. They might be different in what they protect, but in the larger picture, PAM and IAM make for holistic security as they comprise Access Management and Identity Governance and Administration.

Conclusion

In this article, we have learnt about Privileged Access Management, which helps organizations protect privileged accounts and credentials. The details mentioned here will help you to understand how to use PAM and what are all things that should be in mind during the use of Privileged Access Management(PAM).

Cheers!

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Bhavya Tugnawat

Bhavya Tugnawat

A technical support engineer at LoginRadius. He handles the daily technical queries of customers related to the company’s product and provides satisfying solutions to such queries. He is a true sportsperson, who likes to play outdoor games especially volleyball, handball and cricket.

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