The Principle of security least privilege is a de facto security principle essential in the cloud and IT security. IT professionals and managers alike have begun to acknowledge the importance of this Principle. But the greatest predicament for all of them is to find the best way to implement the least privilege principles. If that’s your concern, too, then here’s a complete guide to help you in the pursuit.
Auditing Comes First Always
The first step in implementing the POLP is to know exactly where you stand. During this process, you check all the existing accounts in the infrastructure, check their privileges, and be vulnerable to the entire system.
Depending on how you had set up traceability, you can deep dive into each existing user’s behavior. It will help you spot behavior anomalies.
These data will help you to delete, create, and modify accounts based on how relevant they are to the current requirements.
Once you’ve established the base, you can move forward with the other steps of the implementation process.
Understand the Types of Accounts
A POLP undertaking will fail if the administrators do not understand the types of accounts and their roles. And this isn’t something limited to admins and IT engineers. It’d encompass everyone involved in the business, from the top-level executives to the entry-level employees.
You’ll be creating four different types of accounts. And those are:
- User accounts – This is a generic account created for every individual that’s associated with the system. Using this account, they’ll be able to perform their regular duties.
- Privileged accounts – These accounts offer elevated privileges to specific users to access critical information and grant admin rights to other users.
- Shared accounts – At times, you may feel the need to create shared accounts where two or more users share a single account. This practice is actually not recommended but might be acceptable in some instances.
- Service accounts – These types of accounts will be used by applications and software programs. Therefore, you should separate these from user accounts.
When creating these accounts, you should include all stakeholders and not keep it limited to the IT department.
Security least privilege is a company-wide system that involves all representatives from every division.
Use Groups to Group Multiple Accounts
It’s cumbersome to manage privileges for every account individually, especially if there are hundreds or thousands of users. Very soon, you’ll lose track of the process and have to start all over again.
A better approach to this is to manage the privileges of an entire group rather than individually. So the changes you make to the group reflect on every user present in that group.
So you’d have to find ways to group the users. You can group them by their job roles, department, seniority level, or any way you feel is appropriate. But as a rule, they should share the same privileges.
Once you’ve created a group, you can assign privileges at a group level, and it will be assigned to all the users in the group. This approach is not error-prone and will save you a lot of time as well.
Apply Machine-based Restrictions
Most security professionals focus on creating and implementing location-based restrictions. With these restrictions in place, a user will be denied access if he accesses his account from a location that’s different from his assigned location.
But it would help if you focused on applying machine-based restrictions too. These are a subset of location-based restrictions. With these restrictions, someone from the accounts department cannot access their user account from a computer located in the sales department.
So the least privilege is also applied to the machine a user is assigned to. It may seem overly restrictive, but that’s what the least privilege principle is all about.
The least privilege principle (POLP) applies to the systems as well. Ideally, they should be configured to carry out those functions that they are intended to. Best practitioners have the systems locked down and change all the default passwords, accounts, and services they don’t need.
This will improve the overall security and will go a long way in ensuring there are no breaches. During the audit process, you’ll find many systems that still have the default credentials in place. It makes the system a perfect target to breach the entire IT infrastructure.
The least privilegeis a continuous process that demands regular monitoring and modifications. When someone leaves or changes their position within the company, you should make changes to their accounts accordingly.
Applying the POLP is hard, indisputably. But it’s something every organization has to do eventually. The above steps will help you in the process of keeping your infrastructure safe.