The way small and large organizations protect their assets and manage access to said assets has changed. Privileged identity and access management are the two most important means of preventing security breaches and ensuring that the right users have access to just the assets they need to. Two main terms mandate a description or definition to understand why they are necessary and how they can be useful.
Privileged identity or privileged identity management is also called PIM in short. In IT environments, PIM implies the supervision of superuser accounts. These accounts have certain abilities or an elevated access level. In most cases, both privileged identity and access management pair a user or superuser with access to various assets such as databases. Since some users may have higher access levels, their activity needs to be monitored.
The monitoring side of PIM is required to prevent misuse, abuse, or malicious intent of certain users. To help contain these users and better manage their access, groups, permissions, and privileges are defined. Each user is assigned to his profile a certain group, permission set, and privileges that limit his access to resources.
Access management, referred to as AM, is fairly similar to PIM. It is sometimes defined as PAM or privileged access management. In most organizations, access management is part of an organization’s security policy and is managed by a set of users with elevated rights. They define different user roles, groups, privileges, policies and ensure that users have access only to what they are required to. Modern systems allow for event logging for monitoring and audit purposes, similar to how PIM systems work.
Privileged Identity and Access Management Providers
As more and more companies require a more rigorous control over how users access their assets, privileged identity and access management usually comes as part of various cloud services. Many providers of cloud services offer PIM and PAM either as an extra or for free for all their customers.
An example of how cloud services use privileged identity and access management is with cloud storage. Customers can define roles and groups and each role or group has access only to certain files and folders. Also, to ensure that access is not compromised, some even offer security features such as two-factor authorization, user password management, password policies, activity logging, data encryption, and other security services.
Implementation of Privileged Identity and Access Management
The implementation of privileged identity and access management systems requires several steps. The first step is to create policies for super users which should also define how they will be managed, what they can do, and what they cannot do. The next step is to assign responsibility to a role, department, or person that would enforce the policies and manage user rights.
Part of the process is also the implementation of an inventory system that makes it easier to manage and track who has access to what without having to audit individual accounts.
The last step is about the creation or configuration of monitoring tools, management tools, and other similar security products that enable a logged and firm control over user access management.