Cybersecurity Tip – Restricting Privileged Account Management
Providing your employees, especially the development team, with fully privileged administration access to your network is the easiest way to ensure your staff can properly perform their jobs without involving the IT team. This may increase productivity, but it opens your company up to major cybersecurity threats. That is why we recommend authorizing privileged account management as one of your biggest IT security projects if you haven’t already done so.
Business leaders need to take IT security seriously. Malicious cybersecurity threats are on the rise and have been increasing for the past several years. Small to medium sized businesses have become the fastest growing target for cyberattacks. This means cybersecurity is no longer a concern exclusive to big corporations.
Restricting administration privileges needs to be an essential part of a business’s IT infrastructure in order to guard your business and networks from malicious cybersecurity attacks. However, many business leaders aren’t aware of the threats having open administration privileges can leave your network vulnerable to.
Common ways full administrator rights expose your organization to cybercrime.
Full Access and Inviting New Admin Users
Granting users with full access to a systems operating system or applications allow the privileged account to change major security features, access sensitive information and make changes to major operations. Providing users with privileged domain administration rights grants the user to similar abilities to an entire network domain.
There is nothing stopping a privileged account administrator from owning any file or application on the system. They can modify it, download and transfer it and, lock it from regular user access.
Additionally, users with administration privileges can create new users or administrators whether they are located internally or externally. This means they have the ability to grant malicious users with full administration access, leaving your Company network fully exposed.
Laying Malicious Traps
A user with full administration privileges can be a big threat to the cybersecurity on your network. They have the ability to download and install programs or applications without needing permission. They can install malicious traps for a user with greater administration access such as domain administrators.
Infosecurity magazine provided a great example of this. “[…]by installing a fake certificate authority, malicious users can trick others into believing they are visiting trusted sites or receiving information from a trusted source, leading to the gathering of sensitive information or the installation of malware. “
Port scanning tools allows those with administrative privileges to monitor and identify network services running on a host and boost up their security defenses. If the user has malicious intent, they can capture your network traffic and find or create vulnerabilities, leaving your network exposed to open back doors for data theft, malware and ransomware.
A user with full administration access can freely download and install malicious applications that run in the background without the end-user being aware, leaving your IT environment fully open to vulnerabilities or collecting sensitive data along the way. They also have the ability to completely cover their tracks, and avoid detection all together. They can delete applications, system and security event logs to cover up any wrongdoing with relative ease.
How to Restrict Administrative Privileges
Simply limiting the amount of users with administrative privileges isn’t enough for a proper security strategy. A correct approach to limiting administrative privileges is to:
- Perform a full network audit and identify tasks that require administration privileges to authorize
- Identify which staff members are authorized to perform those tasks
- Create separate accounts for staff members with administration privileges, customize their privileges so they only have the necessary amount of access to perform their duties.
- Regularly review and reevaluate staff members administration privileges and add changes when necessary (change of duties, change of staff, when involved in a security incident).
For network security best practices companies should implement the following processes:
- Staff members should elevate from a standard user account to a privileged user account only when performing administrative tasks
- Privileged accounts do not have access to internet or email
- Implement a dedicated workstation for administrative tasks that is only used for that purpose
- Multi-factor identification is implemented for privileged accounts
- Administration duties are performed on a workstation that has a reduced surface of vulnerability
It is best practice to log and archive administration activity performed from a privileged account. This can help identify who has access to privileged accounts and what tasks they are responsible for. Additionally, if your network does fall victim to a cyber-attack, logs can help identify security vulnerabilities or patterns.
Administration Privilege Approaches to Avoid
The following approaches to administration privileges should be avoided. They may seem like they offer proper administration privileges but in reality, they can cause security vulnerabilities if not implemented properly.
- Creating and implementing shared non-attributable accounts
- Granting regular users temporary administration privileges
- Placing standard user accounts in user groups with administrative privileges
If you haven’t already done so, implementing an administration audit and security strategy is critical to your network security. Business leaders share the responsibility that a safe and secure IT infrastructure is established for the end-user.
A breach in cybersecurity can damage the reputation of your company with both clients and internal staff. Investing in your company’s IT security can no longer be ignored, a lack to do so is no longer forgivable from the client’s perspective.
If you do not have the time or the resources to dedicate to implementing an administration privilege restriction audit and implementation AlphaKOR can help. Our trained staff are available to answer questions and provide assistance and training.
We also offer tips and tricks to take your security knowledge to the next level with our Free eBook “10 things your IT technician wants you to know”. You can never be too safe in this digital era, and by being proactive with your digital security you can prevent emergency situations that would cost your company time and money.