How an MSP and the Principle of Least Privilege Make Your Business Safer

Posted by Gary Utley on January 16, 2020

Principle of Least PrivilegeIs your organization trying to shore up its security? If so, you may want to learn about the "Principle of Least Privilege." 

As an organization grows, it adds employees. It develops a more complex infrastructure. It encounters new security challenges. The Principle of Least Privilege is one of the most critical security concepts today — and it's one that should be thoroughly understood and integrated into a company's best practices.

Here's what you need to know. 

What is the Principle of Least Privilege?

Unlike a lot of security jargon, the Principle of Least Privilege is, at least, easy to understand. Under the Principle of Least Privilege, all accounts should have the bare minimum of access that they need to do their jobs. 

Specifically, that's the bare minimum of access that they need to do their jobs on a day-to-day basis. If an employee needs more security occasionally, they should only be deployed that security on an as-needed basis.

That's simple. But it's not enough to understand the concept itself; you also need to understand why it's so important. Security is all about managing risk; every organization has some risk, and it's not possible to remove it entirely. 

The more permissions an employee has, the greater the level of risk there is to the company should their account be compromised.

If an organization offers all its employees administrative privileges, the compromise of any employee could lead to a compromise of the entire system. If a low-ranking employee is compromised, a very small amount of data will be compromised. This is how it should always work.

And it isn't just about data. The least-privilege concept also applies to making changes to the network, installing software, and other system modifications. A low-level employee should not be able to install software on their work desktop or tablet, and they should not be able to change network settings. 

The Principle of Least Privilege doesn't just protect from compromised accounts and malicious attacks. It also protects against negligence and malicious insiders. Entry-level employees won't be able to steal important company IP. An entry-level employee won't be able to accidentally delete half the files on a server.

As you can see, it's all about risk management. Giving an excessive amount of privileges to all employees creates an unnecessary amount of risk, as any given employee could cause dramatic problems for an organization.

Integrating the Least Privilege Concept into Your Organization's Best Practices

How do you implement the least privilege concept? By developing the right processes and standards.

First: What determines which privileges an employee needs? Usually, there is a type of tiered hierarchy, which controls what type of access each employee has. But this needs to be defined in advance, and employees shouldn't be struggling to do their jobs because they don't have the privileges necessary.

In addition to the default privileges that employees have, there needs to be a structured process for offering these privileges to employees and removing them as necessary. Companies should be able to restrict employees immediately after their departure from the organization and should have processes in place that make this type of decommissioning someone's direct responsibility.

It can be difficult for an internal IT department to manage these privileges, and this is usually why privileges tend to spiral out of control. Rather than managing something like software installs, an IT team may instead extend the privilege to install new solutions onto desktops to an unrelated team. While this clears up work for the IT department, it also creates a vulnerability that will persist beyond the project.

When no one is managing privileges and ensuring that they are correct, privileges can also cascade. If a manager is able to hand out privileges on their own, they may give privileges to their entire team. They're simply thinking about getting the work done as soon as possible, rather than protecting the system — and that can cause serious damage if the system is ever compromised.

Using MSPs to Manage Your Organization's Privileges and Access

Security can be difficult for any organization to manage, especially as the organization grows. As you gather additional employees and additional systems, you need to manage new privileges. An organization may need to manage everything from whether employees are able to install programs on their desktop computers, to individual privileges on cloud-based solutions.

An MSP can help.

Managed service providers can help your organization transition to a Principle of Least Privilege system, by setting up the business processes that your organization needs, and by analyzing your business to determine which privileges your employees require to do their jobs most effectively. Moving forward, MSPs can commission and decommission employee accounts, ensuring that they're set up with the right privileges to begin with, and revoking privileges as needed.

Since the least privilege concept is only one of the important security concepts that are necessary to implement, an MSP provides a singular, all-in-one solution. If you don't want your IT department focused solely on managing and developing new security features, an MSP can be leveraged to provide best-in-class security without any additional administrative overhead for your IT team.

If you're trying to protect your data and your network, the principle of least privilege is an important concept. But it is only one of the important building blocks to better system security. To learn more about the best practices and principles that will protect your organization from data theft and major security issues, contact the experts at Red River.

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Topics: MSP