Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Mehdi Daoudi, Elizabeth White, John Walsh, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, @DXWorldExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Securing Privileged Accounts | @CloudExpo #Cloud #BigData #Security

With good reason, staying on top of privileged accounts is a major concern for CISOs

Six Tips for Securing Privileged Accounts

Insider threats are on the rise more than ever. It's a malicious activity that originates from users within an organization, as opposed to attacks like DDoS that come from the outside. Cyber hackers of this kind get inside the system to steal intellectual property from the company via user credentials. They can use a variety of techniques like phishing links, password brute force, password scanning, keyloggers and many others to get their foot in the door of the enterprise network.

Once an attacker compromises one employee's account, they attempt lateral movement to gain access to privileged accounts that have elevated access to the network. Many of these attacks go unnoticed for years, as enterprise security teams frequently run short on resources and hardly anyone monitors the activity of privileged accounts.

With good reason, staying on top of privileged accounts is a major concern for CISOs. Many organizations are busy following up on potential threats and breaches, and privileged accounts often end up on the back burner. Unfortunately, there is a lot of risk involved. Here are some best practices for keeping privileged accounts secure:

1. Keep track of privileged accounts. Privileged accounts can cause serious damage in the wrong hands. Keeping track of privileged accounts and endpoints is the first step towards keeping them secure. There are many things to stay on top of. Are privileged accounts being used consistent with corporate policy and best practices? Are there shared accounts that could have higher risk? Have user roles changed that should impact privileges?

2. Review the list and downgrade the accounts. Users with unnecessary privileged access present a common problem for many enterprise networks that are heavily exploited by cyber attackers. Privileged access means a higher risk of compromising the enterprise network. There can be many reasons why some users have incorrect assigned privileged access, such as:

  • Users who are assigned to a group by default or due to a misconfiguration
  • Former employees whose account access was not updated when they left
  • Mismanaged IT contractors and developers who can leave the residual privileged accounts

Not all developers working on IT applications need privileged access. Security admins should downgrade an account from privileged account, but provide necessary permissions so developer and service accounts can still perform their necessary functions.

3. Not all service accounts need privileged access. Some of the service accounts that are used by applications required to make changes that only privileged account can be, they can be privileged account but not all service accounts need to be privileged accounts. Service accounts should be carefully review and appropriate access should be provided.

Managing service accounts is a nightmare for security teams. IT Administrators use their privileges to set up service accounts, but then they move to another team, leave the company, and no one is there to manage these service accounts. As the team grows, these issues become more severe.

4. Don't use the administrator account as a shared account. In many enterprise networks, the administrator account is used for servicing other accounts or making changes in the network. A shared administrator account should never be used as a service account or otherwise. Doing so can lead to serious consequences, such as:

  • Every time an administrator account is used locally on a machine, it leaves the hash on that machine for an extended period of time. If that machine is compromised during the time when hash was stored or it is already compromised, cyber attackers can easily compromise the administrator account. This gives them access to the company IP and let them make changes to the network, steal information, shut down services and much more.
  • If a member of the IT team makes changes intentionally or accidentally that cause damage to enterprise network, loss of information etc., it is almost impossible to tell who made those changes.
  • Shared accounts expose higher risk and have a negative impact on IT audits
  • If a cyber-attacker gets hold of shared administrator account and makes changes in the network, it would difficult to pinpoint if those changes were done by genuine IT administrator or a cyber-attacker.

5. Remove stale privileged accounts. One of the challenges of privileged account management is to clean out accounts that are no longer in use. As the IT team grows bigger, security teams should regularly review service accounts and privileged user accounts on a regular basis. If a privileged account is stale, security personnel should review it and disable it if it is not required anymore.

6. Change default passwords and enforce strict password rules. According to this interview, The Impact Team - the hackers behind the popular Ashley Madison data breach - said the organization's security was, simply put: "Bad. Nobody was watching. No security. Only thing was segmented network. You could use Pass1234 from the internet to VPN to root on all servers."

When administrators create accounts for new employees or to perform a temporary task, they often use a default password or simple, easy-to-crack ones like ‘admin,' ‘password123,' etc. Weak passwords are a common culprit that let cyber attackers into enterprise networks or let them gain access to more servers and user accounts by lateral movement.

Organizations should look to prioritize these best practices, and those with limited manpower or resources should look for solutions that provide more visibility into their privileged users to reduce their attack surface.

More Stories By Roman Blachman

Roman Blachman is the co-founder and CTO of Preempt, a new cybersecurity company that protects enterprises from security breaches and malicious insiders. Previously, he was a mobile security engineer at Lacoon Mobile Security, and prior to that, served as a Research & Development manager for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things’). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing? IoT is not about the devices, it’s about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. In his session at Internet of Things at Cloud Expo | DXWor...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader Sergey Grebnov provided an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...