Control Privileged Access, Protect Your Assets: The Future of Zero Trust and PAM
By: Matthew Vulpis
Originally published on Cloud Computing Magazine
No threat facing business today has grown as fast, or in a manner as difficult to understand, as the danger from cyberattacks. Cyber threats are increasing in both volume and sophistication, and as the world continues to become more digital with every passing day, cyber threats will only keep growing in both aspects. As a result, organizations today are turning to a Zero Trust security framework model in order to keep both their data and their customers’ data.
Organizations who count on data centers to host their applications and services and store and protect their data value data center operators who fully understand and address the requirements, for not only the physical security of their “racks,” but digital security as an increasingly important layer in the overall cyber stack.
Zero Trust is a security framework requiring all users, whether in or outside the organization’s network, to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted or keeping access to applications and data. Zero Trust assumes that there is no traditional network edge; networks can be local, in the cloud, or a combination or hybrid with resources anywhere, as well as workers in any location.
This includes public data centers and cloud hosting, and service providers.
This new model is a significant departure from traditional network security, which followed the “trust but verify” method.
“The traditional approach automatically trusted users and endpoints within the organization’s perimeter, putting the organization at risk from malicious internal actors and rogue credentials, allowing unauthorized and compromised accounts wide-reaching access once inside,” said Orhan Yildirim, CTO of Ironsphere, a software and privileged access management company. “This model became dated and, in some cases, obsolete, with the cloud migration of business transformation initiatives leading to the adoption of Zero Trust, which is a huge trend data center operators must pay attention to.”
As good as Zero Trust security is on its own, there are a myriad of technology options that, when combined with Zero Trust, optimize the power of a business’ security. One, in particular, is the use of Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions in combination with a Zero Trust model.
PAM refers to a class of solutions that help secure, control, manage, and monitor privileged access to critical assets. Privileged access is the gateway to an organization’s most valuable assets, with nearly all advanced cyber-attacks exploiting privileged accounts, leading organizations today to recognize the importance of protecting those accounts.
“Privileged access is the access most often targeted by cybersecurity threats because it leads to the most valuable and confidential information, such as customer identities, financial information, and personal data,” said Yildirim. “A well-designed PAM software lets you restrict access to sensitive systems, require additional approval processes, force multi-factor authentication for privileged accounts, and quickly rotate all passwords to prevent further access by the attackers. This protection is important to data center operators who need to protect their own infrastructure, and by extension, protect their customers’ servers, data, and communications networks.”
Since Zero Trust is a model where the user/account privileges or permissions in the network are minimized, their access is managed in a controlled manner, and their activities are recorded, this creates the need for an automated system to audit and understand the activities of users on the network. In this sense, PAM helps to optimally form the IT teams in your business within the Zero Trust model and increase security.
When a PAM solution includes all the application methods of the Zero Trust model, the benefits for the companies themselves are quite advantageous.
To start, companies can more efficiently mask their data. Businesses can mask their actual data against the authorized accounts, apps, and third parties, or they can make them work on set-up data without having to make any changes in your actual data. With data masking, an organization can maximize data privacy and also meet the condition of limiting the processes of privileged accounts, according to Zero Trust.
Another benefit is the ability to verify authorized users. Businesses can verify the authorized accounts accessing the sensitive data of their institution via the two-factor authentication (2FA) solution, and they can prevent sharing of passwords with single-use (OTP) and complex passwords.
“By controlling login environments, companies can monitor and record the activities of authorized accounts and authorized users in authorized logins,” said Yildirim. “PAM solutions with Zero Trust, like Ironsphere, let companies track activities of authorized accounts to form a multi-layered defense mechanism.”
Finally, PAM solutions allow for least privilege management across the Zero Trust framework. As an information assurance method, apply the Least Privilege principles that ensure privileged accounts carry out their duty with the least information and skills, using various authorization levels that a PAM solution offers. This once again only strengthens the multi-level authorization and multi-layer access management.
As the world continues to push forward into a new digital age, the amount of potential cyber threats around the globe is only going to increase. As this happens, organizations will seek to end up with a next-gen PAM solution with a Zero Trust framework that will not only keep it and its employees more secure but also support business operations and satisfy ever-changing compliance mandates in an organic and profitable manner.
“Since the Zero Trust model was designed to make information technology systems and data more secure, companies can combine suitable technologies and accounts and protect their business by integrating today’s leading cybersecurity strategies,” said Yildirim. “And with Zero Trust applied PAM solutions, data center operators can apply the Zero Trust approach and achieve maximum data security in their business.”
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