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How to plan against privilege misuse and ensure asset security?

The most epic of historical battles have been won when the victor was able to anticipate his adversary’s strategy and stay two steps ahead. It is the same when it comes to privilege misuse. You should be not just two but four steps ahead and anticipate the vectors that hackers can employ to attack your system. And I say this because you must assume that the cyber-attacker is already two steps ahead of you. So you have to be four steps ahead by anticipating potential privilege abuse attacks and taking measures to protect against them. Think like a hacker to stop a hacker. Well, easier said than done – how can you do this? Let’s break it down.

A solution to a problem is just the end objective – but it is the approach to finding that solution which sets you apart and lets you be well prepared for privilege misuse. First step is for you to identify and understand the problem on hand. While this sounds easy, more often than not, in the information security world, a problem remains unidentified for weeks. Once you know the problem on hand, next step is to dig deeper and get to the root of the problem. Why did the problem occur, what could have caused it. Albeit time consuming, it is a crucial step for effective troubleshooting. Now things become easy – you know the problem, you know the root of the problem so finding the right solution becomes a comparatively easier task.

Applying that to information security – you should first understand your infrastructure and identify all the loopholes that can be exploited. Anticipate and predict how a privilege misuse can happen in your system. Understand as to what are the different modes and means through which cyber-attackers could breach through these vulnerabilities. Now think of the assets you need to protect and the ways to protect them. Remember, this is a careful process where you must understand the business and financial impact of devising mitigation strategies. Lastly, the most important step would be to align the Board with your plans and execute protection strategies at the earliest without further delay.

Logic Analogy with your organization

To put this in better perspective, let’s look at a specific risk example. You have understood your company mission, its business, its technology and its infrastructure and have defined its crucial information assets such as servers, databases, network devices and others. Now, you understand the vulnerabilities and loopholes associated with this infrastructure. For instance, for these assets, you have privileged users and administrators who act as super users and have significant privilege rights. Can they pose as a threat? Absolutely. If you know they are the most important personnel, don’t you think cyber-attackers (hackers) would be aware of the same? There are two possible scenarios now. One is that the privileged users might have an intent of abusing these privileges or alternatively, they are prone to genuine human error which an attacker could take advantage of and lead to a privilege misuse. Isn’t it obvious that the hackers will attempt to gain control of these privileged accounts to hack into your assets? As you see the hackers are already two steps ahead. This step essentially is the characterization of risk. So with that done, how do you analyze how the hackers are two steps ahead and be prepared to protect these assets?

Protecting against privilege misuse

First, make sure you conduct background checks to ensure these administrators and privileged personnel are trustworthy. This way you can partly ensure that a direct inside attack won’t take place. Secondly, identify and implement security solutions such as Privileged Access Management (PAM) in place that help you secure not just on the credentials of privileged accounts but also the access rights and privileges of these accounts. This is to ensure that neither do the external hackers do not get access to your administrator account credentials and privileges nor do the internal privileged users abuse their privilege rights. Thirdly, monitor the solution for its effectiveness and vulnerabilities, if any. Assess the agility and scalability of the solution to align with the changing dynamics of your infrastructure. Next step is to constantly stay updated on the new attack modes and ways, new trends in information security i.e. be aware and educate yourself persistently. If need be, do not hesitate to undergo a technology refresh and update your privileged access security with the latest technology. Lastly, repeat the above steps in a regular fashion – it is an ongoing process. Rest assured, you are two steps ahead in the game and are better equipped to protect your organization from privilege misuse.

By following the above, are attackers going to shy away? – No, they are not. But you are better prepared and ahead of the curve with the right approach and process set in place to protect your assets from privilege misuse.

How can Sectona help you protect against privilege misuse?

We have a unique Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution that is capable of employing the detect and prevent strategy when it comes to privilege abuse with its unique technology and approach. Download and read our Spectra PAM Datasheet to know more about our approaches and value proposition.


Pranav Nair

Senior Sales Engineer
Pranav drives the business development and marketing initiatives for Sectona. Within a short span in his career, he has amassed a wealth of knowledge in the Privileged Access Management space. He is passionate about finding unique ways to educate and create awareness about cybersecurity. He has been in the information security industry for over 5 years now.
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