Privileged Identity Management (PIM) is an effective way to manage access permissions of employees in order to secure data and limit its exposure.
Data thefts and attacks don’t always happen due to external factors. Sometimes, it could be the work of any internal member done intentionally or unintentionally.
Insider threat is real!
Giving extra privileges than required can lead them to access data that they are not supposed to. Some employees can also misuse resources and accounts for their own benefit, even if it could harm the organization.
There are many cases when an internal team member is a perpetrator of an attack that can compromise data.
Therefore, organizations must provide their employees only the required level of access privileges to their resources and data that are necessary to complete their jobs, not more than that.
This will minimize access permissions and help secure resources and information. It eliminates the chance of unauthorized access that can severely impact your organization’s sensitive data.
Here, Privileged Identity Management (PIM) is helpful.
In this article, I’ll discuss what PIM is, its benefits, how it works, and the difference between PIM, PAM, and IAM.
What Is PIM?
Privileged Identity Management (PIM) is a technique to manage, control, audit, and monitor the level of access the employees or privileged identities of an enterprise have to its data and resources. These data could be database accounts, service accounts, digital signatures, SSH keys, passwords, and more.
In other words, PIM is a practice of managing, monitoring, and securing privileged accounts.
PIM solutions are designed specifically to help enterprises implement granular controls and facilitate strict governance over privilege threats. This helps prevent insider abuse and threats. It also provides approval-based and time-based role activation to eliminate the risks of unwanted, misused, or excessive access permissions on information and resources.
Examples of privileged identity accounts are:
These users have access to critical systems or sensitive data. PIM provides a consolidated solution to create, govern, manage, and track privileged accounts to reduce the chances of data breaches and maintain compliance according to industry standards and regulations.
To implement PIM, you need to:
Create a security policy where you can mention how user accounts are managed and what the account holders can and cannot do.
Develop a model that allows a responsible party to check whether the policies are followed properly.
Determine how extensive the permissions are and identify them.
Establish various tools and processes for identity management, such as provisioning tools and PIM products.
This allows superuser accounts to use their privileged access responsively while accessing IT resources.
Features of PIM
PIM provides the following capabilities and features for enterprises to manage their privileged identities.
Discovery of privileged accounts in your organization, regardless of which application or platform you are using.
Centralized storage and provisioning of all privileged accounts in a single vault.
Granular and role-based authorization policies for all your privileged accounts, letting your organizations enforce the least privilege principle.
Implementation of strong passwords, such as periodic or automatic rotation of passwords.
Temporarily assigning privileged accounts and reversing them when there is no need. This feature is beneficial when a user needs to access a system once to perform a given task.
Monitoring and tracking of all the activities related to privileged accounts, like who accessed privileged accounts, when they accessed, what the person did while accessing accounts, etc.
Auditing and reporting of security-critical events, such as access requests, changes of configurations and permissions, login and logout events, and more.
How Does PIM Work?
Every organization separates its user base into users and superusers. Only relevant data is accessible to them inside the organization according to their roles and responsibilities. People with more privileges can access critical information, get more rights, change workflows, and manage the network.
PIM solutions provide authorized personnel with role-based and time-bound access to sensitive information and resources when required. Let’s dig into how a real-life PIM system works.
Not every admin has privileged credentials. PIM implements the least privilege principles across all users. This principle says that users must possess a minimal level of access permissions sufficient to perform their duties.
PIM requires you to specify needed permissions to the new superuser accounts along with the reasons for giving the permission. This will prevent new accounts from violating your security policies. In addition, it extends visibility over your users by helping you find user accounts that are not in use.
This helps you prevent the orphaned accounts from being hacked. Additionally, PIM monitors updates, changes, and other modifications so that malicious users can’t make any changes in order to obtain your workflows or data.
Passwords single-handedly are not sufficient to protect modern databases and users when the number of digital threat incidents is increasing. Hackers can easily guess passwords or crack them using some coding or tools.
In another view, threat actors exploit social media accounts and make password guesses using information available or conduct phishing attacks.
Privileged Identity Management provides sophisticated options for the authentication process, usually a multi-factor authentication (MFA) capability. This operates in an effective and simple manner, increasing the difficulty for hackers. MFA sets up more authentication levels between accessing data and requests. This includes:
Location monitoring or geofencing
Time of request monitoring
Moreover, many MFA processes take place without disturbing the workflow and logins; they just perform the authentication process in the background.
Apart from internal users, non-human entities can also cause havoc on the network if they have extra permissions than required to perform their functions. Applications, databases, devices, and other programs can move data and make changes to your network.
Hence, proper restrictions and monitoring are required so that hackers won’t get a chance to enter through those programs. To this, PIM restricts non-human and third-party identities from exploiting the least privilege principle.
Also, these restrictions prevent malicious applications from operating without access. You need to consider third parties with unwanted privileged accounts. With PIM, you can track these accounts so that hackers can’t find any way in.
Next-gen privileged access management solutions offer session monitoring recordings. You can sort these recordings into different groups and easily track all of them through searchable metadata. This will minimize incident response efforts. In addition, session monitoring capabilities help in identifying suspicious sessions automatically.
Furthermore, your team can easily visualize a chain of actions. They can evaluate various events and follow the trail during incident response. PIM gathers all privileged accounts in a single vault. This centralizes the efforts and secures essential credentials throughout your network.
Benefits of PIM
The benefits of PIM include:
PIM helps you keep track of who has recent access to a specific resource as well as who had it in the past. You can also track when the access started and ended. You can use this information to plan strategically who should get access in the future.
Due to increasing privacy issues, you must adhere to the regulatory standards prevailing in your region. Popular regulatory standards include HIPAA, NERC-CIP, GDPR, SOX, PCI DSS, and more. With PIM, you can enforce these guidelines and produce reports to maintain compliance.
Reduced Auditing and IT Costs
You will no longer need to manually monitor the access permissions of every user. With PIM’s predefined structure and set of access policies, you can perform audits and produce reports in a few moments.
Ease of Accessibility
PIM streamlines the process of provisioning rights and granting access privileges. This will help legitimately privileged users access the resources easily, even if they don’t remember their credentials.
Without using PIM, you show an easy path to the bad actors who can take advantage of non-operative accounts anytime. PIM helps you monitor and manage all the active and non-operative accounts. It ensures that all these accounts have no access to enterprises’ sensitive data.
Greater Visibility and Control
You can easily visualize and control all the privileged identities and accounts by putting them safely in a digital vault. This vault will be protected and encrypted by several factors of authentication.
Best Practices for Implementing PIM
To enable effective privileged identity management, you need to follow some best practices:
Discover and store a list of released identities, including digital certificates, passwords, and SSH keys, in a secure and fortified online repository. Whenever you discover new identities, you can auto-update the list with ease.
Enforce strict policies, such as role-based and time-based access to privileged resources, automatic reset of login credentials after a single use, periodic password resets, and other security practices.
Implement least privilege access while giving privileged access to third parties and non-admin users. Give them minimal privileges to carry out roles and responsibilities, not more than that.
Audit and monitor remote sessions and privileged access activities in real-time to detect malicious users and make security decisions instantly.
PIM vs. PAM vs. IAM
In a broader scenario, both Privileged Identity Management (PIM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) are the subsets of Identity and Access Management (IAM). IAM deals with securing, monitoring, and managing enterprise identities and access permissions.
However, PIM and PAM play a crucial role when it comes to managing and securing privileged identities and their accessibility. Let’s understand the differences between IAM, PIM, and PAM.
Privileged Identity Management (PIM)
Privileged Access Management (PAM)
Identify and Access Management (IAM)
PIM provides security policies and controls to protect and manage privileged identities for accessing critical systems and sensitive information.
PAM supports an access control framework to manage, monitor, control, and protect privileged access activities and pathways across your organization.
IAM manages and controls both access permissions as well as identities in an organization. For example, users, sub-users, assets, networks, systems, applications, and databases.
It involves managing who will get elevated privileged access to the resources.
It involves systems that can manage different accounts with elevated privileges.
It allows roles that are needed to be assigned to different groups according to user and department roles.
It includes security policies to manage privileged identities, such as service accounts, passwords, digital certificates, SSH keys, and usernames.
It secures an access level and data that the privileged identity accesses.
It offers a security framework that is made up of unique measures, approaches, and rules to make digital identity and access management easier.
Now, let’s discuss some of the reliable PIM solutions that you can consider for your organization.
Microsoft offers privileged identity management solutions for your enterprise. This helps you manage, monitor, and control access within Microsoft Entra. You can provide just-in-time and as-needed access to Microsoft Entra resources, Azure resources, and other MS online services like Microsoft Intune or Microsoft 365.
Microsoft Azure recommends some tasks for PIM that help you manage Microsoft Entra roles. The tasks are configuration of Entra role settings, giving eligible assignments, and allowing users to activate Entra roles. You can also follow some tasks to manage Azure roles, such as discovering Azure resources, configuring Azure role settings, and more.
Once PIM is set up, you can navigate to the tasks:
My roles: It displays eligible and active roles that are assigned to you.
Pending requests: It displays pending requests that are needed to be activated for role assignments.
Approve requests: It displays a set of requests to activate that you only can approve.
Review access: It shows a list of active access reviews that you are assigned to finish.
Microsoft Entra roles: It displays settings and a dashboard for role administrators to monitor and manage Entra role assignments.
Azure resources: It displays settings and a dashboard to manage Azure resources role assignments.
In order to use PIM, you need one of the licenses:
It includes Microsoft cloud subscriptions, such as Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure, and others.
Microsoft Entra ID P1: It is available or included with Microsoft 365 E3 for enterprises and Microsoft 365 Premium for SMBs.
Microsoft Entra ID P1: It is included with Microsoft 365 E5 for enterprises.
Microsoft Entra ID Governance: It has a set of identity governance capabilities for Microsoft Entra ID P1 and P2 users.
Monitor admin accounts and automate and track superuser identity access using the PIM solution by Aujas. Its fast-track solutions bring accountability for administrative and shared access while improving operational efficiency.
This solution empowers your security teams to stay compliant with industry standards and regulations, driving best practices across your organization.
Aujas aims to manage administrative access and prevent internal security breaches by superusers. It addresses the needs of a small server room or large data center. It offers the following PIM capabilities:
Development of procedures and policies for the PIM program
Deployment of PIM solutions
Deployment of SSH key management
Migration of agent-based PIM solution
Management and deployment of solutions for access control using robotics
Furthermore, Aujas offers credential theft protection, credential management, session management, server protection, domain protection, secrets management for rules and applications, and more.
The platform also manages shared IDs across several devices on wide area networks. Additionally, it ensures accountability of shared IDs and eliminates multiple IDs as well as passwords.
#3. ManageEngine PAM360
Reduce unauthorized access and safeguard your mission-critical assets using ManageEngine PAM360. It offers you a comprehensive platform from where you get control and holistic visibility over all privileged access.
The tool empowers you to reduce the chance of growing risk with a powerful privileged access management program. This ensures there will be no access pathways to critical systems and sensitive data that are left unmanaged, unmonitored, or unknown.
ManageEngine allows IT admins to develop a central console of various systems to facilitate quicker remedies. You will get privileged access governance, enterprise credential access control functions and vaulting, password access workflow, remote access, and more.
Furthermore, ManageEngine offers SSL/TLS and SSH KEY certificate management, just-in-time elevated privilege, audit and reporting, user behavior analytics, and more. It helps you get central control, improve efficiency, and achieve regulatory compliance.
Privileged Identity Management (PIM) is a great strategy to improve your organizational security posture. It helps you enforce security policies and control the access permissions of privileged identities.
Thus, PIM can help keep bad actors out and prevent them from causing any damage to your organization. This protects your data, lets you stay compliant with regulations, and maintains your reputation in the market.