How to Prevent Data Breaches by Managing Your Privileged Access Users 

  • Team Omega
  • December 15, 2022

For years, privileged access users have been crucial components on the frontline of an organization’s cybersecurity efforts. At the same time, high-profile hacks of major companies across the globe continue to point to a lack of protection and management of these users’ accesses and identities. It’s high time for organizations to recognize the need to prioritize the role these users have in their overall security approach.

Who Are Privileged Access Users?

While most imagine IT managers and administrators when they think of privileged access users, they often forget that third-party vendors, contractors, and consultants also have access to the various systems within an organization. More often than not, privileged users are also the tools driven by scripts and programs that access the databases or applications for sensitive information during the course of the day. With this, the problem arises when a privileged access user has rights to several accounts within an organization. If a malicious actor were to gain access using this user’s credentials, the extent of damage they can cause can reach deep into the network.

What Dangers Do Privileged Access Users Pose?

These particular users hold the keys to a variety of sensitive information and can easily access everything in your network, including any applicable card data environments. If a privileged user isn’t paying attention to the use of their passwords or IDs, they can completely miss an attacker’s use of their credentials. Additionally, when poor user access management is at play, it allows a privileged user to have access to more resources than necessary for their job role within a network.

Once a malicious actor gets in through that user’s log-in, they can implement privilege escalation techniques that allow easier traversal through an organization’s environment. Sometimes, these privileged users may bypass being monitored or logged, so when their account is compromised, it leaves security teams with nothing to go on when starting the remediation process.

How Do You Manage Privileged Access Users?

While privileged access users can certainly pose a problem, it is possible to manage them to mitigate your level of risk. The first and most common step you can take is to require the use of sophisticated passwords and a system to mandate the frequent password updates, whether this is on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. Training employees that are given privileged access should also be trained on the proper protection and storage of their information so they know not to share their log-in credentials with anyone and to only store their passwords via an encrypted online service, such as a reputable password manager, rather than a physical notebook at their desk.

Other methods to manage privileged users and their access include:

  • Restrict privileged users to access only during certain times of the day.
  • Restrict access to systems based on a user’s login source.
  • Require the use of multi-factor authentication. The cost of imposing this will vastly outweigh the risks associated with attacks.

Why is Monitoring & Logging Important?

Through effective monitoring, logging, and altering protocols, administrators are able to recognize early warning signs of attempted breaches. This allows for quicker response and reaction times and the correlation of data that, when aggregated together with other system or network activities, show possible indicators of compromise (IOCs) that can help stop an attacker in their tracks. Should a breach occur, the applicable logs are then used by forensics during their investigation of the attack. The information provided in the log gives retailers the need-to-know information necessary to help strategize appropriately and help prevent future incidents. Per PCI DSS 3.2.1, these audit logs must be retained for a minimum of one year and 90 days of PCI audit logs must be available for immediate analysis at any given moment.

Get Help from the Experts

Whether you don’t have the internal resources to implement changes to better manage your privileged access users or you want more expertise in the area, Omega offers everything from monitoring and logging to assistance with patch updates and password management to help retailers stay compliant and secure. With our team of knowledgeable cybersecurity experts, all activity and event logs are centralized and automated according to PCI and other standards in your unique industry. We are alerted to unusual and suspicious behaviors to address them immediately. Through the internal scanning capabilities of our Omega Unify, and other security measures offered through our variety of solutions, you can trust Omega to address both your compliance requirements and individualized needs.

With Omega on your side, you gain the certainty and peace of mind that you have the best data security solutions and services a managed security service (MSSP) can offer. Combined with the expertise of our Systems Engineers and Security Strategists, the chances of a breach are minimized considerably and you can expect to successfully get through Qualified Security Assessor audits faster. Paired with our years of experience working with retail data security, affiliation with POS vendors, PCI Council, and other organizations, Omega stays on the cutting edge of technology, processes, delivery, security, and continuous compliance to better serve you for years to come.