What is the Principle of Least Privilege And Why Do You Need it?
Written by Authomize.
The Principle of Least Privilege is just as it sounds. It is the principle of having users across an organization being given the lowest level of access that they need in order to perform their required tasks across a cloud environment.
Implementing the Principle of Least Privilege is a cybersecurity best practice, and an important step in keeping your organization's crown jewels protected.
It’s a practice to ensure that all privileges are continuously right-sized, balancing your organization’s security needs alongside your operational requirements.
Applying Least Privilege extends beyond your human identities to service accounts, servers, and other machines that have privileges that can impact your assets' security.
Implementing the Principle of Least Privilege across your organization comes with a myriad of benefits:
- Reduced potential for cyberattacks: According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report for 2022, 50% of attacks exploited existing privileged credentials. Right-sizing privileges for identities and assets massively reduces the potential for attack.
- Increased productivity: Provisioning privileges based on factors such as usage analysis allows users to remain productive while also keeping support tickets to an absolute minimum.
- Easy, quicker compliance: Minimizing access privileges is an integral part of compliance standards since it reduces your threat surface.
These are the baseline practices you need to implement in your organization to achieve Least Privilege:
The process starts with identifying which accounts justifiably require privileged access to assets and permissions.
You should start by detecting all accounts with privileged access like admins (both official and shadow admins). By understanding which access privileges are being used for sensitive assets, you can identify if the access is appropriate with the account’s role in the organization and if the access is being used regularly.
If either of these conditions are not met in a justifiable manner for the business, then you should revoke those privileges.
Having created a baseline of the desired Least Privilege model, the next step is to prevent uncontrolled changes that can fall outside the purview of the identity and security team.
In practice, this requires locking down the access model so that users cannot provision additional permissions, privileges, or entitlements on their own.
These locks should impact the change controls for your JML change management, as well as federated and local accounts to ensure that there are no unexpected changes allowed.
Once Least Privilege has been achieved, it has to be maintained moving forward. One way to enforce Least Privilege is by continuously monitoring access usage data and utilizing Machine learning analytics.
This process includes:
- Cleaning users from roles they no longer use and/or need
- Removing access privileges from roles that are not in use
- Preventing privilege escalation paths (role chaining)
- Monitoring external exposure
- Validating the need for external exposure when detected
The Principle of Least Privilege is a fundamental factor in your security and compliance policies, and this can even be taken further towards operating in a Zero Trust framework.
Companies need to be particularly aware of any and every identity trying to access anything across their cloud environments, shifting from the traditional way of thinking about perimeter security to something much more solid and protective.
The Principle of Least Privilege goes a long way in securing environments in the ever-transforming digital landscape.
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