Privileged Access Management (PAM) Overview  

What is Privileged Access Management (PAM)? 

In enterprise environments, “privileged access” is a term used to describe certain access or abilities that are above and beyond that of a standard user. Taking control of privileged access is one of the first steps an organization can take in moving toward a Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity. This is where Privileged Access Management comes in. PAM strategies and tools enable an organization to take greater control of the elevated accounts and credentials in their environment.    

What are some examples of privileged accounts? 

Typical privileged accounts utilized by IT administrators withing organizations: 

  • Local Admin Accounts 
  • Domain Admin Accounts 
  • Domain Service Accounts 
  • Break Glass Accounts (also known as Emergency Accounts) 
  • Application Accounts 
  • Service Accounts 
Privileged Access Management (PAM) in action

Why do you need Privileged Access Management (PAM)?

Privileged accounts are the keys to the kingdom when it comes to your IT environment. When bad actors are able to gain access to a privileged account your entire environment is at risk. A single compromised privileged account enables hackers to traverse resources and gain additional data from your organization. For this reason, limiting access granted to accounts is essential.   

PAM enables organizations to further understand and act on access usage in their environment. Utilizing a PAM solution increases environmental security without causing major impacts to your end user’s productivity levels. Expanded visibility facilitated by logging and reporting helps track who is using what credentials and for what purpose. This can help in making more informed decisions on accounts that may need their access reeled in due to lack of use or can help detect suspicious activity that is outside of the norm that may indicate a breach has occurred.  

Guiding Principles of Zero Trust 

Least privilege – the minimum necessary amount of privilege should be granted for the shortest duration of time needed.
Explicitly verify (never trust, always verify) – replaces the antiquated “trust but verify” approach by requiring users and endpoints to always authenticate and authorize network access. 
Assume breach – the mentality that a cybersecurity event will happen or already has happened, moving practices from a more passive defense to an active defense. 

Pillars of Zero Trust Architecture 

  • Identity – an attribute or set of attributes that that uniquely describes a user or entity in the environment. 
  • Device – a hardware asset that has the ability to connect to the network.  
  • Network – an open communications medium including internal networks, wireless networks, and the Internet. 
  • Application – systems, computer programs, and services that execute on premise as well as in the cloud. 
  • Data – organizations should protect data on devices, in applications, and networks.  
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Past, Present, and Future of Privileged Access Management (PAM)

Gone are the days of generic local admin credentials set universally on all endpoints in the environment. With the move away from a “castle and moat” network approach, the lines defining where a company’s network begins and ends have blurred requiring organizations to take further steps to harden their networks. Currently, the move to a Zero Trust architecture is the best practice to combat ever evolving security risks. PAM tools are becoming more necessary as breaches become exceedingly common.  

Learn more about Privilege Manager, Recast’s PAM solution. Documentation, including system requirements, can be found here.

Additional Resources

Privileged Access Management (PAM) and Admin Rights

Recast and Zero Trust

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