PAM360 » Features

For decades, privileged identities have been the go-to target for perpetrators to carry out cyberattacks, and yet, the measures that enterprises have taken to secure them have remained minimal. Incidents such as the Saudi Aramco cyberattack in 2012[1] and the CashApp data breach of 2022[2] stand as glaring reminders that having access to a privileged identity is the gateway into a network infrastructure, demonstrating the need to secure them. While these attacks happened ten years apart, the modus operandi has remained the same: access to privileged identities.

What are privileged identities?

To understand privileged identities, what an identity is first has to be established. Any form of unique authentication that an administrator could use to verify the authenticity of a user who belongs to a network is an identity. These include passwords, usernames, employee IDs, mobile numbers, security answers, etc.

These identities are typically stored in directories like Active Directory and managed using protocols like the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), both of which assign certain levels of access to information within the network. The directory is called upon to verify the identity input by the user.

Not all identities are the same. Users with access to a privileged identity have access to critical controls like system security settings, admin functions, credential management features, break-glass configurations, data center management features, etc.

The identities of these privileged users are known as privileged identities. In layperson terms, a privileged identity is any identity that belongs to a user whose role deserves privileged access to information in the network. Some examples of privileged identities include , passwords, SSH keys, SSL certificates, authentication tokens, one-time passwords (OTPs), etc.

Delving into privileged identity with examples

Banks have automated cron jobs that backup critical client data and financial records on a regular basis. Password of the user accounts that have access to these job scripts are safe to be considered privileged identities. In case these passwords are mismanaged, it would lead to massive loss of data and thus making this a critical use case.

Another example would be that of a service account that performs directory services in various domains. Passwords of these service accounts are typically stored in the local registry. If passwords of such service accounts are changed or mishandled, it would disrupt all services the account is meant to perform across numerous devices in the network.

These passwords mentioned in the above examples are the typical examples of a privileged identity. It is important to monitor and govern access to privileged identities since they possess mandated access to information that is vulnerable to data breaches. Administering the most stringent security protocols would still leave the network unguarded if the attack is carried out in the guise of a privileged user. Thus privileged identities would prove jeopardizing in unauthorized hands.

Many enterprises till date use spreadsheets, local text files, and other non-encrypted mediums as vaults to store privileged identities. These are then circulated to users on an on-demand basis. This leaves room for innumerable ways through which privileged c can slip out of organizational hierarchy and lead to unauthorized entries into the network.

What can organizations do to secure access to privileged identities?

Enterprise privileged identities such as passwords form the majority of real time use cases. To reduce the tediousness of storing and resetting hundreds of user account passwords manually, IT departments can mandate password best practices on an organizational level. This would also drastically decrease the loopholes through which password regulation that can be exploited.

These practices include but are not limited to:


    Discovering and storing privileged credentials in a secure vault.


    Automating password reset procedures on a periodic basis.


    Associating password policies respectively to resource groups.


    Establishing multi-level authorization for remote password requests.

The above-mentioned practices make up the blueprint upon which privileged identity management (PIM) is conceptualized. PIM as a notion defines practices that mandate securing, auditing, and governing privileged identities within a network.

Privileged Identity Management (PIM)

PIM encourages organizations to determine who can access what information and when. It advocates practices such as monitoring the activities of all privileged users in the network via screen recordings and logging instances of abnormal behavior of privileged users.

Practicing privileged identity management strategies will help organizations reduce vulnerabilities to cyberattacks drastically and mitigate threat response procedures should such events occur. PIM requires organizations to practice multi-factor authentication, regulated password reset, and mandates that employees adhere to password policies.

Taking a closer look into data breaches concerning privileged identity abuse or any other cyberattack, the crux of the issue is the mismanagement of users and resources. While the above-mentioned use cases portray privileged identity management to be the ultimate solution, it only scratches the surface. User and resource management are the most primary yet crucial use cases of a perfect privileged identity management scheme.

Privileged identity management practices, at an enterprise level, can be incorporated using a PIM solution. PIM software solutions help automate and advance privileged identity management strategies to practical uses, such as:

  • Managing privileged users and resources centrally and automating the process by directly adding them to the PIM software from the enterprise's dashboard.
  • Grouping resources and users to enforce custom policies.
  • Automating password reset schedules to all resources on a periodic basis.
  • Deploying password verification checks to audit adherence to compliance mandates.
  • Sanctioning periodic reports for password integrity checks.
  • Selective sharing of passwords to privileged users based on their requirements.
  • Securing one-click access to remote sessions without exposing passwords.
  • Monitoring and auditing of remote user sessions in real time.

While considering a PIM software, the above-mentioned points are the bare minimum features an organization should look for.

How can ManageEngine PAM360 help secure your privileged identities?

ManageEngine PAM360 is an all-in-one enterprise privileged access management solution that allows IT teams to effectively discover, store, and manage access to privileged identities automatically. PAM360's native privileged user behavior analytics (PUBA) allow organizations to audit privileged users' behavior and report anomalies in real time. ManageEngine PAM360 ensures end-to-end security of enterprise privileged identities.