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Privileged identity and access management

Privileged identity and access management (PIAM) is a solution focusing on the strategies and technologies that can be implemented to control, monitor, and manage the access and permissions to critical resources by privileged users and devices in an organization. Privileged accounts can be both human and non-human accounts. For example, human accounts include superuser accounts with access to privileged information, emergency accounts with admin access in case of emergencies, users who perform critical actions like user provisioning and deprovisioning, or other actions that can directly affect the security. A non-human privileged credential could be SSH keys, authentication tokens, service or application accounts, etc.

Privileged account management or privilege management falls under the umbrella of identity and access management (IAM). While IAM strategies and practices lean towards the authentication and access controls for all users, PIAM strategies are devised focusing on privileged users and accounts only.

Why is PIAM important?

With privilege, comes great risks: Privileged accounts are often targeted by attackers to gain easy access to data or the network. Inactive privileged accounts whose privileges are not revoked pose a greater risk to the organization's security as they can be exploited by both external and insider threats.

It is not "privilege" if everyone has it: In some organizations, due to a lack of resources to help with managing access and permissions, IT admins often grant access permissions broadly to all accounts, without categorizing them based on their requirements or roles. Users with over-privileged accounts can intentionally or accidentally abuse their privileges, and can cause adverse implications like deleting or stealing critical data.

Compliance is key: Privileged accounts, when not audited or managed securely, can impact the organization's compliance with IT security compliance mandates. Since the privileged accounts are privy to sensitive data and perform critical tasks, they should be continuously monitored to maintain a log of all the activities performed, as mandated by most compliance requirements.

5 ways to implement PIAM in your organization: Where should you start?

With the right PIAM tool, like ADManager Plus, organizations will no longer have to struggle with scripting or native Active Directory (AD) management tools to implement PIAM. Here are a few ways to implement PIAM in your organization:

1. Ensure effective provisioning of privileged accounts:

  • Establish standardized, organization-wide policies for secure provisioning of privileged accounts.
  • Create well-defined roles to suit the privileged users to avoid the risk of improper assigning of access permissions due to human errors.
 The ADManager Plus way: ADManager Plus provides role-based user provisioning through customizable templates, CSV import, integrations with HRMS applications, and other databases that can help you implement the recommended PIAM best practices with ease.

2. Inventory all existing privileged accounts:

  • Take stock of all critical resources, such as user accounts with access to critical resources, and user accounts with privileged access, to keep track of any anomalous activities like frequent password reset requests or logging into the accounts from personal devices.
  • Identify accounts with excess privileges and ensure the principle of least privilege is adhered to.
 The ADManager Plus way: ADManager Plus' built-in, extensive reports on users, computers, and other AD objects can help you stay on top of user activities and privileged user access, with a click. These reports can also be scheduled to be sent as emails, exported as HTML, CSV, PDF, CSVDE, XLSX, and more.

3. Regularly clean up inactive privileged accounts:

  • Disable or remove privileged accounts if they are inactive for extended periods. Privileged user accounts can remain inactive for reasons like employees going on an extended leave or quitting, and these are easy targets for attackers looking to gain entry into the network.
  • Setting up an automated stale account cleanup routine makes management more secure and resource-intensive.
 The ADManager Plus way: With ADManager Plus, you can automate frequently performed critical tasks like cleaning up stale accounts with options to configure the disable and delete policies, and notifying the IT admin or the manager when an automation is executed, all without PowerShell scripting.

4. Establish an approval-based workflow for critical actions:

  • Ensure critical actions like user provisioning, modifying group memberships, and password reset, are executed only after they are reviewed and approved.
  • Set up an organization-wide approval-based workflow tailored to suit the various activities performed.
 The ADManager Plus way: ADManager Plus enables you to configure fully secure, approval-based workflows to review and execute critical tasks like user account modification, deletion, password reset, and more in a few clicks.

5. Audit the actions performed by privileged accounts:

  • Maintain a log of all actions performed by privileged accounts. This also ensures compliance with IT security mandates like SOX, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and more.
  • Set up alerts to notify when the privileged accounts are accessed during non-business hours or from personal devices to prevent security threats.
 The ADManager Plus way: ADManager Plus offers prebuilt audit reports that maintain the details of all AD management activities like Password reset, User deletion, Creation/Modification of User accounts, performed through the solution. These actions efficiently keep track of who did what and when, and can help detect problems and errors associated with a failed action.

Due to organizations scaling up faster than before, and rising cyberattack numbers, it is prudent for IT admins to track security risks and especially in over-privileged accounts. Implementing various security practices, like IAM, PAM, and Zero Trust, has become essential and are imperative for your organization.

With the right tools, organizations can set up efficient cybersecurity practices to fend off attacks and establish a stronger perimeter. ManageEngine ADManager Plus is a web-based, Windows AD management and reporting solution with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that requires no scripting. It provides a unified console for the management of and reporting on Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft 365, Skype for Business, Google Workspace, and more.

Other features
  • Active Directory Reports

    A catalog of almost every report that you will need from your Active Directory! Comprehensive and Reliable reporting. Schedule reports to run periodically. Manage your AD right from within the reports.

  • Active Directory Password Management

    Reset password and set password propertied from a single web-based console, without compromising on the security of your AD! Delegate your password-reset powers to the helpdesk technicians too!

  • Active Directory Logon Reports

    Monitor logon activities of Active Directory users on your AD environment. Filter out Inactive Users. Reporting on hourly level. Generate reports for true last logon time & recently logged on users.

  • Active Directory Workflow

    A mini Active Directory ticket-management and compliance toolkit right within ADManager Plus! Define a rigid yet flexible constitution for every task in your AD. Tighten the reins of your AD Security.

  • Microsoft Exchange Management

    Create and manage Exchange mailboxes and configure mailbox rights using ADManager Plus's Exchange Management system. Now with support for Microsoft Exchange 2010!!

  • Active Directory Automation

    A complete automation of AD critical tasks such as user provisioning, inactive-user clean up etc. Also lets you sequence and execute follow-up tasks and blends with workflow to offer a brilliant controlled-automation.

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