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PAM, who is she and where did she come from?

9th October 2017
PAM, who is she and where did she come from?

Working for a Security reseller you get used to acronym after acronym and before you know it you’re pretty much speaking a new language. FIM, GDPR, KSV,
EPO, ARM, DPO, these are just some examples of acronyms that I’ve caught myself using when speaking to friends and family about what I do at work all
day (much to their annoyance).

One acronym that has crept into many of our conversations recently is PAM or Privileged Account Management to give it its full name.

PAM though can mean different things to different people and there can be some confusion between PAM, Access Rights Management and Admin Rights Management
– we’ll attempt to explain the differences over the course of our next blog posts.

Privileged Account Management in the true sense of the phrase is a product or solution that will allow you, as the name suggests, to manage privileged
accounts. When we talk about Privileged Accounts we generally mean Firewall, Windows Server, Unix Root, Domain Access and Service Accounts – or generally
any account, that if compromised, will give hackers unrivalled access to business-critical systems and sensitive data.

Now unfortunately for those in the business of protecting critical systems and data (me and you), it has become apparent that hackers are purposely targeting
these systems.

‘32% of hackers say that accessing privileged accounts was the number one choice for the easiest and fastest way to get at sensitive data’

Now you’re probably asking yourself why would hackers target these accounts? Surely if these accounts are so powerful, then the passwords used to protect
them will also be strong…well no, not always.

Many of these privileged accounts will be set with default passwords like Password1234, ABCDEF, 00000…you get the message, and even if these passwords
are changed they won’t be rotated on a regular basis, or be complex enough that a good password cracking tool won’t be able to guess in time.

Another issue is that IT Admins tend to have so many privileged account passwords to remember that they will keep them on Excel spreadsheets on desktops
– which as we all know isn’t the most secure way of going about things.

‘#1 source of cyber fatigue is remembering and changing passwords’

Enhancing this aspect of security isn’t much of an issue if you’re a small company, however as the business grows, and the number of privileged accounts
grows with it, it becomes an almost impossible task to manage. In fact, many larger organisations, may not even know where all their privileged accounts
are.

Despite some great advancements within the Cyber/IT security world we’re still very much reactive in the face of threats and the recent upsurge in PAM
conversations we’re having is down to the fact that the number of attacks on privileged accounts is increasing and becoming more of a problem.

So far in this Blog we have just touched on external threat actors trying to compromise systems to steal data, however managing and rotating the passwords
of these privileged accounts is also important for another reason.

Believe it or not, even in the wonderful world of IT, from time to time people leave their jobs.

This presents a problem for IT as they will need to ensure that the passwords used to access these accounts are changed sooner rather than later, to prevent
unauthorised access.

You firstly need to understand which privileged accounts the user had access to, the passwords on these accounts then need to be changed, and this must
be communicated out to the wider team.

Again, this isn’t too much of a problem with a small IT team, within a small organisation, however IT teams at some organisations can be hundreds of people
strong making the whole password rotation process extremely complex and not something you want to do manually each time somebody leaves.

This is where PAM comes into its own.

A PAM solution will allow you to uncover where all your privileged accounts lie, give you information on which of these accounts have weak passwords, help
you increase the complexity of these passwords and rotate them regularly making it almost impossible for anybody without the required permissions to
access your privileged accounts.

This is also a big tick in the right boxes for many compliance regulations.

If you are facing some of these challenges, and would like to learn more about the work ITB are doing in the world of PAM we’re holding an event on this
very subject early November.

To register go to the ITB Events Page.

 

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