CISOs and cybersecurity leaders should evaluate their PAM and identity management technology stacks to identify security gaps. By determining (or assuming) that vulnerabilities or weaknesses exist, you can implement necessary improvements and enhancements to enable robust security measures and safeguard against emerging risks.
Privileged Access Management (PAM) is a comprehensive security solution designed to safeguard critical systems and sensitive data by managing and controlling privileged access within an organization. It addresses the growing concerns surrounding insider threats, data breaches, and unauthorized access to privileged accounts.
According to Gartner, “Effective PAM takes a comprehensive technology strategy. Key success factors include visibility and control of privileged accounts across all assets.” PAM is not just a tool but a process of developing policies and procedures for managing access to sensitive information.
PAM solutions typically include centralized credential management, secure password vaults, multi-factor authentication (MFA), session recording, and privileged session monitoring. These capabilities help organizations mitigate the risk of unauthorized access, prevent misuse of privileged accounts, and ensure accountability.
It is critical to recognize the importance of PAM as a cyber-defense capability for your organization. If you find yourself needing to implement PAM processes, consider the four phases outlined by IBM as guidance:
More details on the four phases for adopting PAM in your organization are below:
The process of designing the target PAM state aims to create a comprehensive and tailored plan that outlines the desired state of the organization's PAM implementation. It is a roadmap for subsequent implementation, customization, and configuration activities to achieve the envisioned PAM environment.
Some questions to consider during this phase include:
By mapping your PAM program, you’ll identify the activities, features, and functions within your approach. During this phase, consider the roadmap you developed in the first phase and attach tangible actions to it, such as prioritization and phasing, technology selection, and implementation timelines.
This phase recommends expediting the implementation process of your chosen PAM solutions. It involves utilizing pre-built use cases and assets, as well as adopting an agile methodology, to achieve a faster time-to-value for your PAM solution.
By continuously optimizing and expanding your PAM program, you can adapt to changing security requirements, improve operational efficiency, and stay ahead of emerging threats. This ongoing effort allows your organization to maintain a robust privileged access management framework and protect critical systems and data from unauthorized access or misuse.
In many ways, PAM should serve as a foundation for Zero Trust, which is the method that aims to secure every identity and validate that everyone using a system is “who they say they are.”
PAM provides the necessary visibility, control, and governance over privileged access, aligning perfectly with the principles of Zero Trust to minimize the attack surface and protect critical assets in today's evolving threat landscape.
Now that you clearly understand PAM, it’s also critical to understand identity management and identity access management (IAM). Identity Management refers to managing and controlling digital identities within an organization or system. It involves the administration and governance of user identities, access privileges, and authentication mechanisms to ensure secure and efficient access to resources and services.
Gartner defines IAM as “A security and business discipline that includes multiple technologies and business processes to help the right people or machines to access the right assets at the right time for the right reasons while keeping unauthorized access and fraud at bay.” In many ways, IAM works together with PAM with the common goal of ensuring only authorized people have access to the sensitive data.
Gartner further outlines three phases for adopting IAM in your organization:
We recommend that you establish a solid foundation for your IAM program and ensure that the necessary support and resources are in place for subsequent implementation phases. This involves identifying key stakeholders, assessing business needs and risks, developing business cases, defining the program goals and milestones, estimating resource requirements, and engaging your stakeholders.
We recommend creating a roadmap for IAM selection implementation activities, clarifying timelines, responsibilities, and success criteria. It helps manage expectations, allocate resources effectively, and mitigate risks, ultimately leading to a successful IAM implementation.
Running an effective IAM program requires technical expertise, strong governance, proactive monitoring, and continuous improvement. By effectively managing user identities, access controls, and security risks, organizations can ensure that only authorized individuals have access to resources, protecting sensitive data and mitigating the risks of unauthorized access or data breaches.
Identity access management can involve one-time authentication or continuous authentication methods, the latter of which we’ll discuss next.
Infosecurity defines continuous authentication as, “A mechanism that regularly validates the authenticity of a user after the user has logged in for the entire duration of the session.” A method of confirming a customer's identity in real time, it can employ a combination of technologies and techniques to establish and maintain identity. For example:
Continuous identity verification technologies exist to take the guesswork out of constant authentication. A leader in continuous identity verification technology is SessionGuardian. Their continuous identity verification technology enables organizations to maintain control over their sensitive systems and information by implementing verification checks that restrict access to unauthorized individuals. When an authorized user is not detected, the system automatically secures the information, ensuring it remains inaccessible. Additionally, if a second party is identified, the verification process acts as a safeguard, preventing them from viewing confidential data.
Additionally, continuous identity verification is a type of Zero Trust cybersecurity. To learn more about the importance of Zero Trust, visit our Zero Trust strategies page.
While PAM, IAM, and continuous identity verification have distinct focuses, they complement each other in achieving the overarching goal of securing sensitive data. IAM ensures that regular users have appropriate access privileges. PAM focuses on securing and managing privileged accounts with access to critical systems and sensitive information. Continuous authentication ensures that the user is who they say they are, continuously, throughout the active session.
By combining authorization and verification solutions, organizations can establish a comprehensive approach to access management, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access and potential data breaches.
How are you verifying the individuals in your organization?
Access management, including identity management and continuous identity verification, is increasingly critical to implement in today’s threat landscape. If you’re looking for guidance on these verification methods, GenuineXs offers Identity Management and Continuous Identity Verification services.
Our advanced verification methods help to continuously authenticate and authorize users and devices, helping to prevent unauthorized access to your systems and data. With our identity management and continuous identity verification services, you can have confidence that your systems are secure and only authorized users can access them.
Contact one of our cybersecurity experts to discuss Zero Trust for your organization.