The Dangers of Not Auditing Your Privileged Accounts

The Dangers of Not Auditing Your Privileged Accounts

Do you know how many privileged account users you have in each cloud tool? Most business owners and leaders would be hard-pressed to answer that question.

In some smaller companies, every user is made an “admin” just in case they need to get to higher-level settings at some point. In other cases, an employee may need temporary access to a higher-level function, but then their account is left that way and never put back.

The more privileged accounts you have, the higher the risk of something seriously damaging happening if any of your accounts are breached. When a cybercriminal breaches an account they can then conduct what’s known as an insider attack. 

Insiders are “inside” your perimeter security. They’re recognized as a legitimate user, which gives them more access to steal data, plant malware, and do other things unchallenged. But… they can only have access according to the permissions of the account they’ve breached.

If they’ve compromised a basic user account, then they most likely can’t get to your payment details and can’t add and remove users. But, if a privileged account is breached, then the hacker gains many more capabilities to cause damage to your business. 

They may be able to change security settings, add/remove users, delete files, and access other sensitive account areas. So, it’s logical that the fewer of these privileged accounts you have, the better for your cybersecurity.

Why It’s More Important Now Than Ever to Protect Your User Accounts

With cloud adoption at nearly 100% for all sized businesses since the pandemic, company operations, and data, for the most part, are now cloud-based. To get to that data, the easiest way is to breach a user login.

After all, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Google, and other large cloud providers have stringent security that they spend tens of millions of dollars on each year. Getting past that isn’t always possible. Tricking a user through a phishing email into entering their password into a fake login form is an easier way to breach your data.

Here are some disturbing statistics that show why it’s important to audit and monitor your privileged accounts:

  • Credential compromise has become the #1 cause of data breaches globally.
  • 80% of organizations have suffered at least one cloud data breach in the last 18 months
  • 43% of companies have had 10 or more cloud data breaches in the last 18 months.
  • 80% of data breaches can be tied back to privileged account compromise.

Best Practices for Privileged Account Management (PAM)

Keep a Log of All Cloud Accounts & Account Permission Levels

It’s important to have one easy place to reference all your cloud accounts and access privileges. Rather than having to go into each SaaS tool, create a spreadsheet or online log form of all your cloud accounts in all tools. You can use a tool like Microsoft Lists.

Keep this credentials log updated anytime there is a change in employee permission level or a new account is added or removed.

Review Your Log Regularly to Remove Unused Accounts

It doesn’t take long for cloud costs to balloon, and one of the contributing factors is often unused accounts. Employees leave or get promoted to a different position, and their old cloud accounts are never closed. 

These abandoned accounts are easy targets for hackers because they’re not being monitored. They also add to your cloud costs.

You should review your log of all user accounts regularly to ensure any unused accounts have been closed and removed.

Apply the Rule of Least Privilege

The Rule of Least Privilege states that users should only be granted the lowest access level needed to complete their daily tasks. It’s designed to avoid having too many privileged accounts.

Review all accounts you have with elevated permissions and speak with these users to see how often they are using that additional access. If it’s not very often, then you should consider lowering their credential level.

Consider Using a Single Dedicated Admin Account

You can further reduce your risk of a high-level account breach by moving to a “dedicated admin account” system. This is where you designate one user account to be used only for administrative purposes, and that is the only account that has privileged credentials.

Any users needing to handle administrative tasks will log out of their lower-level user account and into the dedicated admin account. They then log out once those tasks are completed.

Of course, you should put stringent controls on this account, including multi-factor authentication and a strong password.

Cloud platforms, such as Microsoft 365, allow you to set up a dedicated admin account without having to pay another user license for it. 

Get Help Auditing Your Privileged Accounts & Improving Cloud Security

Haxxess can help your Northern Ontario business improve cloud security and reduce the risk of a costly insider attack.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation! Call 705-222-8324 or reach out online.

stay in touch

Subscribe to our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about latest IT news.