All You Need to Know About Least Privilege
When setting up any type of cloud account, there are typically going to be levels of access that you grant to users. For example, one user may have the ability to add and remove users, another may be able to edit, but not delete files.
User privileges are set up to add layers of protection to your account and the data it contains to protect companies from:
- Accidental deletion or overwriting of data
- Insider attacks
- Risk of breaches involving high-level credentials
Privileges are also given to processes. For example, one process may have the ability to overwrite code to make an update, while another process may not. This privilege restrictions helps ensure:
- Improved IT security
- Easier deployments by reducing potential code conflicts
- Better system stability because there are a limited number of processes that can change the environment
The type of privilege we’re going to discuss is that for user privileges, because it’s the one that most Sydney businesses are dealing with every time that they add a new user to a company cloud account.
What is the Principal of Least Privilege (PoLP)?
Some small businesses just give most users administrative-level privileges because they want to avoid a problem where a user runs into a barrier to do something because their permission level is too low.
But handling user accounts in this way can leave organisations more exposed to a data breach and insider attack. An insider attack can involve a hacker gaining access to a user’s password and being able to log into the system as that user.
As you can imagine, the hacker can do much more damage if they have a high-privileged account. For example, they may be able to add or delete users or change the permissions of other users, making it difficult for others to stop their activities.
They can also delete and copy files or change system security settings with the express purpose of making it easier for them to conduct repeat attacks.
Over the past two years the number of global insider incidents have increased 47% and the cost of those threats has risen by 31% to over $11.45 million.
Principal of Least Privilege
The Principal of Least Privilege is a best practice whereby organisations only grant users the lowest access level possible for them to accomplish the tasks related to their position.
For example, if you have someone that is in charge of handling customer calls and emails and entering them into a CRM system, then that user would need to edit a customer record. However, they wouldn’t need access to add another user or change security settings in the CRM program.
Using the PoLP, you can set up security levels based upon “need to know” or “need to do” so your network and data are better protected.
The Benefits of Restricting User Privileges
You improve your overall data security and the risk of things like ransomware infections and data breaches by reducing the number of access points to a hacker.
If you have 2 top-level admins instead of 20, then you’ve lowered your risk of a high-level credential being breached by 10%.
Fewer Issues Caused by Human Error
Someone that has privileges higher than needed might not have the proper training that goes along with an admin-level account. This can lead to a user accidentally causing problems by deleting data, changing important configurations, or something else.
Human error is cited as the cause for approximately 70-100% of IT incidents.
Prevent Malware from Spreading
Once malware infects a single user’s computer, it will often try to spread to as many different systems on a network as possible.
If a user does not have high enough privileges to write code to a server or another networked system, it can stop that automatic propagation because their system would not have the ability to infect another one.
Improved Tracking & Audit Capabilities
If all your users are admins, then tracking when a user-caused error happens becomes much more difficult.
If you have privileges restricted so only a few employees have administrative access, then tracking any events that happen – configuration changes, data transfers, etc. – becomes much easier.
This also improves audit capabilities when reviewing cybersecurity protocols and potential vulnerabilities.
Better Data Privacy Compliance
Restricting user access to sensitive and protected customer data is vital to any compliance needs.
When you’re using the Rule of Least Privilege to restrict user access to data, you’re both reducing the risk of a breach and showing a good faith effort for data privacy compliance. Should a breach happen, this can reduce potential fines according to certain regulations.
Get Help Setting Up Access Levels To Keep Your Data Secure
GKM2 can help your Sydney area business implement privilege restrictions that keep your data and network better protected without sacrificing productivity.
Contact us today for a free consultation. Call +61 2 9161 7171 or reach out online.