Businesses that have been the victims of malicious attacks are beginning to discover that some of the attacks are initiated by privileged individuals. Because of this, privileged users should be the focus of your company’s cybersecurity efforts if you wish to avoid cyberattacks.
A Ponemon Institutes 2022 report on privileged user risks indicates that privileged user assaults will increase by 44 percent in 2020, with the cost per attack at $15.38 million. It is now more important than ever to prevent privileged user attacks and the threats they pose to your business from malevolent privileged users, given the tremendous harm they cause.
A privileged user is someone who has special access rights.
An employee who has been given the authority to view confidential company data is considered a privileged user. Privilege user assaults can be monitored and mitigated if an organization is aware of what constitutes a privileged user. Priority users have greater access to the source codes, networks, and other technical aspects of the organization than the general public has. These additional rights expose the company’s sensitive data.
Providing some employees with privileged access is critical to the success of a business, but care must be given to define these privileges and establish proper limitations to places the user is not authorized to access.
Understanding how privileged users might be targeted
As a general rule, privileged user assaults take advantage of an organization’s weaknesses, such as system flaws or unfettered access controls. A privileged user, in addition to having privileged access to sensitive files and system databases, may be permitted to have significantly more access than an ordinary user.
For those with privileged access to multiple systems, or for those who want to achieve full control of the entire environment, there are many options. Doing so allows them to better control low-level user accounts and enhance their rights.
Possible manifestations of threats to privileged users
unauthorized use of a person’s personal information
To start a privileged attack, credentials such as usernames and passwords are frequently used.
For example, an attacker may try to figure out administrator credentials because they have more access to important information and system files. It’s only a matter of time before the malevolent privileged users get their hands on the credentials.
2. Exploitation of a privileged vulnerability
Software vulnerabilities are defects that can be exploited to carry out hostile activities. Furthermore, the privileged user can exploit flaws in operating systems, network protocols, and other applications as well as the infrastructure of the system.
Even if a privileged user attack is successful due to a vulnerability, this does not mean that the assault was successful as a whole.
Systems that aren’t properly configured
Configuration flaws are another form of vulnerability that can be exploited.
Poorly configured security settings are the most common source of configuration issues that a privileged person can take advantage of. Unauthenticated cloud storage can be accessible to the internet and newly installed software might be left with the default security settings, among other examples of improperly designed systems.
This vulnerability can be exploited by attackers with root access who have advanced knowledge of viruses and malware. As a result, privileged users may find it easier to utilize viruses such as trojans and ransomware as they have root access to the system environment.
How can companies prevent attacks from privileged users?
A variety of measures can be taken by companies to reduce the risk of privileged user assaults. The methods of prevention may be used by any company, whereas the methods of mitigation are dependent on the type of assault.
The principle of least privilege
Employees who are given access to more than their jobs require by their employers are committing a common blunder. This method, however, creates weaknesses that can be exploited by a privileged person to aid in a malicious attack.
One method to avoid this is to follow the least privileged access principle. Privileged users should only have access to data, systems, and applications that are necessary for them to succeed in their roles.
To put this into action, the company’s top security specialists must conduct an audit of all roles and privileges. Unauthorized access can be avoided by following these steps. System admins, domain admins, database admins, payroll admins, and root users are among the most critical areas for auditing.
Second, privileged users should be guided by security regulations.
Prioritize the establishment of clear guidelines for what privileged users can and cannot do. When a user breaks any of the security policies, there must be consequences for the user. Again, this policy should cover what to do if privileged users leave the firm or alter their job within the company should be implemented.
Most companies’ best practice is to remove all of a user’s previously granted security privileges before they leave their position. Removing old user privileges and auditing how they were managed before giving new ones to new roles is a good idea if the role of a powerful user is changing.
3. Establish a system of regular security checks.
Creating a security monitoring team that monitors how all privileged users utilize their access to accomplish their tasks is another technique to reduce the risk of harmful privileged user assaults. Security observability tools can be used to automate this exercise, or a team of security experts can perform it manually.
Ensure that all employees are aware of this periodic security monitoring process but leave them with no specific date so that a malevolent privileged user cannot cover his or her traces. “
Focus on how the user manages to read, destroy, create, and modify access for full monitoring of rights. Restrict or limit access to a multifactor authentication system if you notice anything suspicious about it.
Using multi-factor authentication is a good idea.
Another technique to stop malicious attacks by privileged users is to implement multi-factor authentication, which requires authentication before allowing access to certain user privileges. Leaving the crucial system access vulnerable in the hands of a malevolent privileged user would be even worse.