Privilege Access Management Copy - Provision Software
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Identity & Access Management   |  PAM

Privileged Access

Management (PAM)


Privilege access management is part of IAM, helping manage entitlements, not only of individual users but also shared accounts such as super users, administrative or service accounts. A PAM tool, unlike IAM tools or password managers, protects and manages all types of privileged accounts. Mature PAM solutions go even further than simple password generation and access control to individual systems, and also provide a unified, robust, and—importantly—transparent platform integrated into an organization’s overall identity and access management (IAM) strategy.

How PAM helps organizations?

PAM helps organizations condense their organization’s attack surface, and prevent, or at least mitigate, the damage arising from external attacks as well as from insider malfeasance or negligence.

The only method of preventing threats is by effectively managing and tracking privileged user sessions. Through streamlining the authorization and control of privileged accounts, PAM lets organizations stay in control and be safe from both intentional and unintentional admin rights abuse.

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    Difference between the two major categories of IT accounts

    There are two major categories of IT accounts:


    A user account typically represents a human identity (such as an Active Directory user account) and has an associated password to Protect information and prevent anyone else accessing without permission. There is usually a single account password per user that needs to be memorized by a person.


    Privileged accounts provide administrative or specialized levels of access to enterprise systems and sensitive data, based on higher levels of permissions. A privileged account can be associated with a human being or non-human IT system.

    Organizations often have two to three times more privileged accounts than they have employees. In most organizations, IT staff have one account with standard-level permissions and another account for performing operations that require elevated permissions.
    Privileged accounts are the keys to your IT, since they can be used to:


        • access a sensitive server
        • adjust permissions
        • make backdoor accounts
        • change or delete critical data

    What are the risks associated

    with unmanaged privileged accounts?

    Many recent high-profile breaches have one thing in common: They were accomplished through the compromise of privileged credentials. Industry analysts estimate that up to 80% of all security breaches involve the compromise of privileged accounts.

    Virtually all organizations have some unknown or unmanaged privileged accounts, increasing their risk. Some may have thousands. This can happen for various reasons:


          • An ex-employee’s access was never disabled.
          • An account is utilized less and less often until it becomes obsolete and is abandoned.
          • Default accounts for new devices were never disabled.

    Every unknown or unmanaged privileged account increases your organization’s vulnerability and presents an opportunity for an intrusion. An employee may access it to perform unauthorized tasks, intentionally or unintentionally, breaking compliance regulations and increasing your liability. A disgruntled ex-employee who retains privileged access cause harm.


    A cyber-criminal can find the account and penetrate your organization, steal information, and wreak untold havoc.


    If a single privileged account is used across your organization to run many services or applications, when that account is breached, your risk increases exponentially. In that case, it only takes one compromised privileged account for an attacker to gain access to virtually any information within your organization’s IT network.

    How do cyber-criminals

    compromise privileged accounts?

    1. Compromise a local account.
    2. Capture a privileged account.
    3. Hide and observe.
    4. Impersonate employees.
    5. Establish ongoing access.
    6. Cause harm.

    Why is PAM important?

    Strong perimeter protections installed to stop malicious attacks are rendered powerless if a bad actor has already bypassed firewall defenses using an active user account. Compromised accounts are a very common vulnerability and a particularly difficult challenge for network managers. In fact, Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach report cited 81% of hacking-related breaches leveraged either stolen and/or weak passwords. This type of system breach is hard to detect unless strict controls and comprehensive activity monitoring is in place. For PAM tools, this is the primary function.


    Privileged accounts, also known as administrative accounts, have access to critical data and infrastructure. Certain users play a vital role in ensuring network efficiency, however, the embedded permissions of their privileged accounts make them high-value targets for bad actors.


    A well-executed privileged access management strategy establishes regulated individual user access controls and behaviour transparency to mitigate security risks. PAM tools are introduced to ensure that users only have access to what is required to do their job and nothing more.

    Why would I need PAM?

    PAM keeps your organization safe from accidental or deliberate misuse of privileged access.
    This is particularly relevant if your organization is growing. The bigger and more complex your organization’s IT systems get, the more privileged users you have. These include employees, contractors, remote or even automated users. Many organizations have 2-3 times as many privileged users as employees!
    Some of these admin users can override existing security protocols.
    That’s a big vulnerability. If administrators can make unauthorized system changes, access forbidden data, and then hide their actions, you’re in trouble. Insider threats aside, this is a huge opportunity if an outside attacker can gain access using these admin credentials. 
    PAM solves this problem.
    A PAM solution offers a secure, streamlined way to authorize and monitor all privileged users for all relevant systems.
    PAM lets you:
    • Grant privileges to users only for systems on which they are authorized.
    • Grant access only when it’s needed and revoke access when the need expires.
    • Avoid the need for privileged users to have or need local/direct system passwords.
    • Centrally and quickly manage access over a disparate set of heterogeneous systems.v
    • Create an unalterable audit trail for any privileged operation.

    Capabilities of the PAM solution

    Under certain conditions emergency access must be granted to specific administrators and you will still need to ensure the monitoring and recording of all privileged activity in your systems.

    PAM solutions can offer a secure application launcher that provides immediate entry into applications without revealing passwords.

    Even with multiple security protocols in place, there is still potential for privileged accounts to be breached.

    PAM software can add an additional layer of security with multi-factor authentication protocols (MAP) when a user requests access. OATH authentication and proprietary tokens can also be integrated as part of the MAP.

    Once a user has accessed the system, PAM software can assist in workflow management through automation of each approval step throughout the session duration.


    For each user role, you can configure check-out rules and, if needed, receive notification for specific access requests that require manual approval by an administrator.

    Mobile devices are becoming common access points to enterprise systems.

    PAM software can provide integration with a secure application launcher where access can be granted to remote devices.

    Auditing privileged sessions is critical.

    PAM solutions can provide recording and reporting for a variety of activities including password requests and session recording of transactions during privileged sessions.

    Additionally, PAM software can provide dozens of critical reports including asset reports, compliance reports, and privileged activity reports.

    Password leaks and data breaches are an increasing part of the IT world.

    Reusing passwords increases the likelihood that a system and its data will be compromised. The primary method of security provided by privileged access management is password vaulting, where passwords are stored in a central, highly secure location and protected by strong encryption.

    This ensures extremely limited access to all passwords.

    With PAM, you can generate random password values or merely rotate the current password.

    This can be done manually by an individual with an assigned password management role, or as an automated function of the PAM system. Each time a user requests access, a new password can be automatically generated by the PAM system to avoid password reuse or leakage, while ensuring a match between current credentials and the target systems.

    To scale IT systems while managing costs, effective systems management increasingly requires a high degree of automation.

    PAM systems can automatically perform repetitive password related tasks and can also alert administrators for a variety of privileged access conditions, such as failed password attempts, password requests, and web application transactions.

    PAM systems can be designed with failover safeguards to ensure that no single point of failure can prevent critical access to systems during a widespread system or network failure.

    Third-party personnel may need continued access to systems (as opposed to emergency, one-time only access as described below).

    PAM software can provide role-based access that does not require granting domain credentials to outsiders, limiting access to only needed resources and reducing the likelihood of unauthorized privileged access.

    Components of a PAM Solution


    Privileged Access Management solutions vary in their architectures, but most offer the following components working in concert:

    Access Manager
    This PAM module governs access to privileged accounts. It is a single point of policy definition and policy enforcement for privileged access management. A privileged user requests access to a system through the Access Manager. The Access Manager knows which systems the user can access and at what level of privilege. A super admin can add/modify/delete privileged user accounts on the Access Manager. This approach reduces the risk that a former employee will retain access to a critical system. (This situation is far more common that most IT managers would like to admit!)
    Password Vault
    The best PAM systems prevent privileged users from knowing the actual passwords to critical systems. This prevents a manual override on a physical device, for example. Instead, the PAM system keeps these password in a secure vault and opens access to a system for the privileged user once he has cleared the Access Manager.
    Session Manager
    Access control is not enough. You need to know what a privileged user actually did during an administrative session. A Session Manager tracks actions taken during a privileged account session.

    Contact us

    to find out what PAM solution is right for your needs.