ManageEngine named a Challenger in the 2023 Gartner ® Magic Quadrant ™ for Privileged Access Management. Read full report.
As the IT landscape expands, passwords proliferate, and as more passwords need to be protected, a centralized password management routine becomes crucial. Passwords act as the first line of defence for sensitive information and can spell doom when mismanaged or compromised, so they are naturally one of a hacker's prime targets.
Password management can be broadly classified as "personal" and "enterprise". Personal password management is individual-specific, and involves a set of security best practices to protect a user's personal information such as email accounts, credit card numbers, social security numbers, banking accounts, contact addresses, phone numbers, and location.
Enterprise password management, also known as privileged password management, is an integral part of an organization's IT security management and protects the credentials of corporate accounts that hold elevated access privileges. This practice utilizes a centralized, safe repository with strong vaulting provisions to store accounts for local administrators and domain administrators, as well as root, service, application, and system accounts.
While password management in all forms is equally important, secure management of privileged account passwords has been gaining prominence recently due to an increased number of organizations falling prey to cyberattacks, owing to poor password protection. A compromised password is the easiest way for a hacker to gain administrative access to critical information systems and exfiltrate business-sensitive data. Hackers are always on the lookout for static and weak privileged passwords that allow them to pass through an enterprise network undetected.
Phishing emails are one of the most common methods hackers use to steal admin login credentials. These email scams are very popular among hackers despite continuous warnings from security experts. According to the Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report, "82% of security breaches involve human elements, including social attacks, errors and misuse." This lets hackers easily deploy keylogging malware on workstations to capture all credentials used on that particular system. Similar methods include login spoofing, shoulder surfing attacks, brute-force attacks, and password sniffing.
Compromise of even a single privileged account password via these attacks can provide hackers with unrestricted access to an organization's IT infrastructure and lead to irrevocable losses. To handle such attacks, organizations should focus on devising a judicious approach towards privileged password storage, protection, management, and monitoring.
Exhibiting a strong security posture requires sustained efforts from the organization. It calls for strengthening the fundamentals that are gateways to the critical assets. These points emphasize the importance of password managers in enterprise workflows to help establish a strict password hygiene and ensure the system resiliency.
By deploying a password manager, critical accounts and credentials across the enterprise are periodically discovered and consolidated under the same roof. This provides one-click access to target machines and applications without requiring that passwords be manually entered. This paves the way to centralized management of sensitive information.
The conventional method of handling passwords in spreadsheets and monitoring individual accounts for vulnerabilities is a daunting task. Sharing spreadsheets with any non-administrative user can allow malicious insiders to penetrate the enterprise environment easily. But vaulting credentials is an impactful cybersecurity approach that enables single sign-on users access to enterprise resources and applications. With password managers in place, remembering unique passwords is no longer a hassle.
Enforcing stringent password policies ensures cyber hygiene and secures critical enterprise data. Since passwords can be an avenue for entry into a network as well as a source of income for hackers, it is ideal to establish a reset schedule, preferably every 60-90 days. Password managers today come with built-in password generators that enable users to create strong, complex, and random passwords based on preset password policies. These practices remove password fatigue and secure sensitive data from an array of risks.
IT teams should grant and revoke access to its critical resources based on the merits of requester's needs. This access provisioning aligns with the principle of least privilege (POLP), such as in these scenarios:
Based on who the users claim to be, password managers allow restricted, role-based access and eliminate standing privileges when employees leave. This allows administrators to eliminate the risks posed by these privileges, and remove excessive permissions instantaneously.
Collaborative tasks, like working on shared documents or multi-user applications, mandate passwords be shared among teams. During such instances, a password manager enables secure sharing without actually revealing the credentials. The user can then easily monitor the safe sharing of passwords to prevent incidents in the future, even when an automated password reset is triggered.
With growing technological advancements, automating password management best practices necessitates the use of dependable solutions for secure data handling. What helps organizations is investing in password managers that provide a centralized console for business password management, govern user activities, and stay vigilant 24/7 against cyberattacks. Let us delve deep to understand about a password manager and how it aids in achieving these goals.
A password manager is a solution that helps businesses and individuals discover, store and manage their sensitive credentials and accounts. Password managers include built-in capabilities to generate strong and unique passwords for applications and services, rotate and randomise passwords periodically based on predefined password policies, and generate comprehensive password-related reports for compliance requirements.
A password management software works one step ahead of a traditional enterprise password vault to ensure that access to every endpoint is routed through secure means. Deploying software like Password Manager Pro supports access provisioning purely based on the concept of ownership and sharing where users are deemed fit to perform tasks based on the roles assigned. While this demarcation allows fine-grained access controls to be implemented, it also helps in grouping users with similar roles and allot privileges during bulk operations.
Classifying password managers based on deployment method and user experience leaves us with two major types; On premise and cloud-based password managers. However, this classification does not compromise on the level of security offered by them. Accessing critical credentials by deploying either of these types provides the same level of secure experience for users and choosing the appropriate password manager is entirely based on the their convenience and the size of the organization. Let us understand the other aspects that differentiate On-premise and Cloud-based password managers.
|Specifications||On-premise password manager||Cloud-based password manager|
|Mode of deployment||Deployed (or self hosted) and controlled inside an enterprise infrastructure.||Centrally deployed on public or private cloud and offered as a SaaS by service providers or OEMs, thereby eliminating the need for additional hardware and software setup.|
|Cost of deployment||Expensive to set up, operate and maintain on-premise password because they require additional costs that cover physical servers, maintenance staff, and deployment assistance incurring significant Cap-ex costs.||Cost effective deployment that involves only a web-based licence purchase incurring ongoing Op-ex costs.|
|Upgradation||Periodic software updates to be carried out by in-house maintenance teams by manually applying upgrade packs.||Product upgrades are usually deployed by the software OEMs.|
When it comes to securing critical enterprise data, using passwords is at the top of the list of authentication methods that include biometrics, certificates, keys, and tokens. While passwords are intrinsically preferred due to their binary nature, they are prone to misuse and risks. Even the smallest effort to decrypt sensitive credentials could jeopardise the business infrastructure.
ManageEngine Password Manager Pro is a secure vault for storing and managing shared sensitive information such as passwords, documents and digital identities of enterprises. It ensures that enterprise assets are fortified while being accessed from multiple networks, demographics, and remote endpoints. By deploying such tools, enterprises can ensure an improved security posture and stay resilient to cyber attacks in the long run.