Securing privileged access

Organizations should make securing privileged access the top security priority because of the significant potential business impact, and high likelihood, of attackers compromising this level of access.

Privileged access includes IT administrators with control of large portions of the enterprise estate and other users with access to business-critical assets.

Attackers frequently exploit weaknesses in privileged access security during human-operated ransomware attacks and targeted data theft. Privileged access accounts and workstations are so attractive to attackers because these targets allow them to rapidly gain broad access to the business assets in the enterprise, often resulting in rapid and significant business impact.

The following diagram summarizes the recommended privileged access strategy to create an isolated virtual zone that these sensitive accounts can operate in with low risk.

An end to end approach is required for meaningful security

Securing privileged access effectively seals off unauthorized pathways completely and leaves a select few authorized access pathways that are protected and closely monitored. This diagram is discussed in more detail in the article, Privileged Access Strategy.

Building this strategy requires a holistic approach combining multiple technologies to protect and monitor those authorized escalation paths using Zero Trust principles including explicit validation, least privilege, and assume breach. This strategy requires multiple complementary initiatives that establish a holistic technology approach, clear processes, and rigorous operational execution to build and sustain assurances over time.

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Best practices checklist Best practices
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Industry references

Securing privileged access is also addressed by these industry standards and best practices.

UK National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) Australian Cyber Security Center (ACSC) MITRE ATT&CK

Next steps

Strategy, design, and implementation resources to help you rapidly secure privileged access for your environment.

Image Article Description
Strategy doc Strategy Overview of privileged access strategy
Success criteria doc Success criteria Strategic success criteria
Security levels doc Security levels Overview of security levels for accounts, devices, intermediaries, and interfaces
Account doc Accounts Guidance on security levels and controls for accounts
Intermediaries doc Intermediaries Guidance on security levels and controls for intermediaries
Interfaces doc Interfaces Guidance on security levels and controls for interfaces
Devices doc Devices Guidance on security levels and controls for devices and workstations
Enterprise access model doc Enterprise access model Overview of Enterprise Access Model (successor to legacy tier model)
Retiring ESAE doc ESAE Retirement Information on retirement of legacy administrative forest