SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva, Glenn Rossman, Ava Smith, Elizabeth White

News Feed Item

Three Ways CXOs Can Avert Super-User Security Threats with Privileged Account Management

Today, on Cyber Monday, online retailers and banks are bracing for the likelihood of increased data breaches and security threats, while online shoppers are taking extra precautions to protect personal information. Every day, Americans trust that the corporate and government IT systems handling their critical identity information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers and tax returns, are equipped with appropriate security measures to keep personal data safe. Heightening awareness of potential security risks is an essential step to thwarting malicious attacks. All too often, however, public and private entities must also recognize that even more risky exposure exists when administrative privilege is exploited, regardless whether by external adversaries or internal threats. Quest Software (now part of Dell) has a deep understanding of the problems organizations face when they don’t properly control and audit administrative access and “super-user” accounts.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year at The Experts Conference, an annual gathering of global IT pros co-sponsored by Quest and Microsoft, half of the responding organizations reported that their No. 1 compliance issue is ensuring correct user access rights (including privileged user access). In the case of managing privileged accounts, this challenge intensifies when administrators are given the “keys to the kingdom,” with far-reaching, shared anonymous access rights to vital IT systems. In the private sector, failure to manage access to information and compliance with security mandates can mean lost revenues, failed audits and damage to the brand. In government, managing user access rights represents a high stakes game in which getting out ahead of emerging threats is a matter of national security. To this point, Privileged Account Management is noted in many security standards, including ISO 27001 and NIST 800-53. A new report developed by Enterprise Management Associates, on behalf of Quest, identifies inadequate administrative access controls as “one of the most egregious IT risk gaps in many organizations.”

The report, “Why You Need to Consider Privileged Access Management (And What You May Not Know About It That You Should),” examines some of the most common excuses companies give to justify this oversight, and offers useful insight into how modern Privileged Account Management (PAM) practices and corresponding technology solutions can close the risk gap with flexible policy control, automated workflows and comprehensive reporting to enhance security, achieve compliance and improve efficiency.

To further help CXOs avert these all-to-common security risks, Quest offers three pragmatic tips:

1. Assign individual accountability to super-user activity

Shared and unmanaged administrative access is more than just a bad idea—it’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to expose an organization to undue risk, especially since these super-user accounts typically have extensive power over IT operating systems, applications, databases, etc. With shared accounts, any security or compliance breach can be traced back only to the account, and not to an individual administrator using that account.

A much better approach to risk containment involves granting administrators access rights only to what they need, as they need it, nothing more or less. Credentials should be issued only on an as-needed basis, accompanied by a full audit trail of who used them, who approved the use, what they did with them, as well as how and why they received them – and the password should be immediately changed once the use is completed. The ability to automate and secure this entire process is an effective way to manage administrative access across an entire organization. Similarly, PAM is essential to enabling federal, state and local agencies to work together, and can make or break government-wide information sharing and collaboration.

2. Implement and enforce a “least privilege” security stance for administrative access

Many administrative accounts, including those for Unix root, Windows or Active Directory admin, DBA, etc., provide unlimited permissions within their scope of control, and, when shared, open the door for malicious activity. For example, the widely publicized security breach at Fannie Mae involved an employee who used this type of super-user access to maliciously plant a logic bomb that, if undiscovered, would have crippled the entire organization and compromised the personal and financial information of approximately 1,100 people.

A more prudent approach is to establish a policy that clearly defines what each administrator (or administrator role) can and cannot do with their access. Since this process can be complicated and often difficult to enforce across diverse systems, Quest recommends the addition of granular delegation tools that are optimized for the designated platforms, and integrated with other PAM technologies such as a privilege safe, multifactor authentication or Active Directory bridge.

3. Reduce privileged account management complexity

One of the overarching PAM challenges comes from navigating diverse IT systems, each with their own unique capabilities and requirements for privileged account management. This often results in the use of specialized tools, along with ad-hoc policies and practices to control privileged account access. Unfortunately, this approach frequently complicates the audit process, making it difficult to prove that all access is controlled and that separation-of-duties principles are established and enforced.

For that reason, consolidating disparate systems into a common identity structure creates an environment where a single PAM approach can be readily enforced with greater consistency across a much larger portion of an organization, eliminating errors borne from multi-system complexity, reducing risk and lowering the expense of managing multiple systems. In addition, any consolidation of PAM capabilities under a common management and reporting interface provides enhanced efficiency.

The EMA report referenced above indicates that organizations focused on achieving a high level of discipline in configuration and change management tend to have better outcomes, not only in lower incidences of disruptive security events, but in better IT reliability, less unplanned IT work, more successful IT changes, higher server-to-system administrator ratios, and more IT projects completed on time and within budget.

Quest® One Identity Solutions Centralize and Simplify Privileged Account Management

Quest Software provides a modular, yet integrated, approach to identity and access management, specifically Privileged Account Management that controls insider threats and improves IT efficiency, as it enables organizations to eliminate the dangers of unchecked super-user access, adverse audit findings, direct penalties, and negative press exposure.

Supporting Quotes:

Jackson Shaw, senior director of product management, Quest Software
“Privileged Account Management will be one of the fastest-growing areas of IAM over the next few years, for good reason. Most of the recent high-profile security breaches, including the UBS Paine Webber attack and the City of San Francisco breach, happened due to lack of control over privileged accounts. What’s more, these breaches do not discriminate; they can cause equally horrific damage to any organization, no matter how large or small. It’s time for companies to take note of the severe security risk posed by poor PAM practices, and seek out a comprehensive solution befitting the task. Quest One offers a complete set of PAM capabilities, providing comprehensive controls in a flexible, modular architecture.”

Scott Crawford, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA)
“Poor controls over administrative access have resulted in real damage. PAM capabilities can help mitigate such risks and improve controls, through techniques such as ‘privilege safe’ technologies that deliver a more disciplined approach to control that supports responsible IT governance. Quest helps IT improve performance and reduce support costs by closing one of the most readily managed gaps of all: the weakness exposed when individuals have broad, anonymous, and unmonitored administrative access to the most sensitive capability in IT.”

Supporting Resources:

About Quest Software (now a part of Dell)

Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) listens to customers and delivers innovative technology and services that give them the power to do more. Quest, now a part of Dell’s Software Group, provides simple and innovative IT management solutions that enable more than 100,000 global customers to save time and money across physical and virtual environments. Quest products solve complex IT challenges ranging from database management, data protection, identity and access management, monitoring, user workspace management to Windows management. For more information, visit http://www.quest.com or http://www.dell.com.

RSS Feeds:

Technorati Tags:
Quest Software

Dell is a trademark of Dell Inc. Dell disclaims any proprietary interest in the marks and names of others.

Quest, Quest Software, and the Quest logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Quest Software in the United States and certain other countries. All other names mentioned herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

More Stories By Business Wire

Copyright © 2009 Business Wire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Business Wire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Business Wire. Business Wire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
Docker offers a new, lightweight approach to application portability. Applications are shipped using a common container format and managed with a high-level API. Their processes run within isolated namespaces that abstract the operating environment independently of the distribution, versions, network setup, and other details of this environment. This "containerization" has often been nicknamed "the new virtualization." But containers are more than lightweight virtual machines. Beyond their small...
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and asse...
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from ha...
We are all here because we are sold on the transformative promise of The Cloud. But what good is all of this ephemeral, on-demand infrastructure if your usage doesn't actually improve the agility and speed of your business? How must Operations adapt in order to avoid stifling your Cloud initiative? In his session at DevOps Summit, Damon Edwards, co-founder and managing partner of the DTO Solutions, will highlight the successful organizational, process, and tooling patterns of high-performing c...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Ar...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, a...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the ...
SYS-CON Media announced today that Aruna Ravichandran, VP of Marketing, Application Performance Management and DevOps at CA Technologies, has joined DevOps Journal’s authors. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done. Aruna's inaugural article "Four Essential Cultural Hacks for DevOps Newbies" discusses how to demonstrate the...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...