Privileged Access Management is More Crucial than Ever As Endpoints Continue to Expand Network Edge

09

AUGUST 2021

By: Matthew Vulpis

Originally published on IoT Evolution

For organizations looking to break beyond the limitations that traditional cloud-based networks impose, edge computing can make all the difference. Often touted as the “next big thing,” edge solutions have started to become common practice in many industries, thanks to the introduction of new technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and its various devices, as well as 5G. The fact that IoT devices are capable of processing the data they gather closer to the source, combined with the increased speed of networks now operating on 5G, is creating exciting new possibilities for edge technology.

On top of this, the massive shift to remote work due to the Covid-19 pandemic has also expedited the growth and use of edge technology. With so many employees now working over a wider area across a vast amount of devices, the need to bring data processing and delivery capabilities closer to home networks has many companies turning to the edge.

“With so many building owners now looking for ways to conserve energy, reduce operational expenditures, and meet sustainability standards through the use of IoT devices and 5G networks, it’s no wonder the reliance on edge technology is increasing,” said Mohie Ahmed, Solutions Architect at Ironsphere,  a privileged access management software company. “Edge computing not only has the ability to deliver a direct on-ramp to a company’s preferred cloud platform, but it also can help achieve flexibility and nimbleness when it comes to ensuring a streamlined, efficient IT infrastructure, making it the premier option for many businesses today.”

However, as the edge and the associated technology begins to spread, so does the volume of potential cyber-attacks a hacker can deploy. The RSA’s Quarterly Fraud Report found that during the Covid-19 pandemic, phishing and ransomware remained the most common approach, accounting for 33 percent of all cyber attacks. On top of this, with so many new devices in use due to remote work, account takeover attempts soared, and logins to a new account from a new device accounted for 31 percent of fraud activity.

Defending against such a vast array of possible cyber threats is no easy task for companies, especially considering all it takes is one small access point for a cybercriminal to exploit. And with the proliferation of IoT devices and the increase in remote workers using unsecured networks, businesses have their hands full, making sure their data and their customer’s data is thoroughly secured.

In order to keep their data protected, many organizations are turning to Privileged Access Management (PAM) technology. Privileged access is a term used to designate special access or abilities above and beyond that of a standard user and can be associated with human users, as well as non-human users, such as applications and machine identities.

A privileged account is considered to be any account that provides access and privileges beyond those of non-privileged accounts, while a privileged user is any user currently leveraging privileged access, such as through a privileged account.

“Because of their elevated capabilities and access, privileged users and privileged accounts pose considerably larger risks when it comes to potential cyber-attacks,” said Ahmed. “With PAM, organizations can implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy to protect against the threats posed by credential theft and privilege misuse.”

PAM solutions are grounded in the principle of least privilege, wherein users only receive the minimum levels of access required to perform their job functions. The principle of least privilege is widely considered to be a cybersecurity best practice and is a fundamental step in protecting privileged access to high-value data and assets.

PAM also offers a myriad of benefits for organizations looking to protect their valuable privileged accounts. One differentiator between PAM and other types of security technologies is that PAM can dismantle multiple points of the cyberattack chain, providing protection against both external attacks as well as attacks that make it within networks and systems.

Another benefit of PAM technology is that it reduces malware infection and propagation. Many varieties of malware need elevated privileges to install or execute. By removing excessive privileges, such as through least privilege enforcement across the enterprise, PAM can prevent malware from gaining a foothold or reduce its spread if it does.

Finally, PAM enhances operational performance through automation. Restricting privileges to the minimal range of processes to perform an authorized activity reduces the chance of incompatibility issues between applications or systems and helps reduce the risk of downtime.

“Because every single endpoint in a system contains privilege by default, and the unfortunate fact that employees are using the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain, the need to automate and increase security protocols has never been more critical, with technology and workers both spread across a wide range in today’s world,” said Ahmed. “However, by enforcing the principle of least privilege through the use of PAM solutions such as Ironsphere’s, organizations can reduce the attack surface and mitigate the risk from malicious insiders or external cyber attacks that can lead to costly data breaches.”

While cybercrime saw its main boost from the shift to remote work during the pandemic, the recent boom isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, unfortunately. With 30% of the workforce expected to continue working from home after the pandemic, cybercriminals will continue to have a variety of endpoints and weak spots to take advantage of when trying to access a company’s most valuable data.

And with more innovative devices being introduced almost daily at this point, as the world pushes further into the digital age, enhanced cybersecurity by protecting end-users anywhere, on any device, and over any network will only become more critical.

“Many organizations today are used to protecting their information with traditional perimeter security tools, such as firewalls, anti-virus, and intrusion detection solutions,” said Ahmed. “But with fast-evolving IoT technologies and 5G networks, building a fence or moat around critical assets is no longer sufficient. With PAM solutions like Ironsphere’s, companies can leverage all the new technology at their disposal while being assured their and their customers’ most valuable data is protected from would-be cybercriminals.”

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