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Least Privilege: What is it and why do I need it?

By November 2, 2021No Comments

Least Privilege: What is it and why do I need it?

Least Privilege is a principle used in the design and implementation of security controls. Least Privilege ensures that particular roles and/or functions are provided with only the least amount of access necessary to perform the role or function required.

The principle is often used hand in hand with the principle of ‘segregation of duties’. By limiting the access available and clearly defining authorised duties and functions, all powerful access can be limited in such a way as to ensure that no one person or role gains ‘access to the kingdom’ and therefore could easily compromise a system. Together, these controls ensure that a degree of collusion would be required to breach systems security and gain unauthorised access.

Risks are defined by the likelihood and consequences of particular actions occurring. These controls (like most) are designed to reduce the possibility. One rogue engineer or staff member may attempt to breach security, but it is less likely that two or more may collude together to do so.

Restricting access for employees and vendors also limits what an attacker can do if they manage to defeat other countermeasures and controls. Let Canda explain this security measure in greater detail and why your organisation may want to apply it.

How to protect against the increasing number of data breaches

As more processing is being conducted in the Cloud, data breaches are becoming more frequent. Using the principle of Least Privilege, along with other controls including multi-factor authentication, all help to reduce the likelihood of your organisation suffering a data breach.

Gaining access to admin accounts with many privileges and permissions is ideal for hackers, so the secure design of authentication and access control is a primary function of operational teams implementing security over your systems and data.

Using the principle of Least Privilege

The impact of cyberattacks can be reduced by implementing a role-based access control framework (RBAC) using the principle of Least Privilege. This means that specific permissions can be assigned to a role within an organisation, and they only get access to parts of the system that they need to do their jobs.

Take great care in the design, approval, use, logging, monitoring and reporting of privileged accounts. These usually have access to more tasks that contain privileged information and are often the target of hackers. Keeping them completely separated from general accounts makes them more difficult to find and access. Ensure only the people who perform administrative duties get access to these account logins to reduce the likelihood of breaches.

How to implement the principle of Least Privilege

To implement the principle of Least Privilege, you need to look at your systems, access methods and permissions. Think about the minimum permissions needed for all jobs within your organisation and check if anyone has more than they require to do their work! Only give each employee the accesses they need to do their job to reduce the risk of a cyberattack. Often service and engineer (admin) accounts are not limited but instead have all access. Locking down administrative accounts must be achieved with operational functions and processes in mind (it has to be workable).

Having an employee responsible for cybersecurity is essential to keep track of all users’ permissions and roles for each system. Make sure you have a thorough list, and don’t forget to include considerations about how users access systems, either through the front or the back end of the application and infrastructure.

Here are a few important aspects you should keep in mind when implementing the principle of Least Privilege:

  • Identify the permissions that users need before giving and changing their access
  • Review permissions regularly and modify them if needed
  • If there has been a change in roles, make sure you also modify the permissions
  • Remove users immediately when they are not needed
  • Assign separate administrative accounts to users that need increased access to perform their administrative roles
  • Log actions done by administrative users to keep track of all changes that they made
  • Regularly monitor logs for nefarious activity

Get support from Canda

The principle of Least Privilege is a great way to increase the cybersecurity of your organisational systems and processes. Contact Canda to find out more!


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