Protecting privileged identities in a post-Covid-19 world: A guide


Bottom line: Every organisation needs to digitally reinvent their business, starting at the system level to safely sell and serve customers with minimal physical interaction.

The hard reset every business is going through creates a strong sense of urgency to increase the agility, speed, and scale of selling, as well as customer service options that protect the health of employees, customers, and partners. Customer experience needs to be the cornerstone of digital transformation, with the customers’ health and welfare being the highest priority. Businesses need to realise that digitally reinventing themselves is no longer optional. Every customer-facing system is going to need the best infrastructure, security, and stability for any business to survive and grow.

Securing infrastructure needs to come first

COVID-19 was a wake-up call that companies need to operate as multi-channel players, allowing for physical but, more importantly, virtual presence. For instance, in retail, only those that will step up their efforts in building on-line ordering and associated nation-wide logistics networks will survive in the longer-term. If the cloud was considered an option in the past, it now is mandatory. In turn, the need for security has increased.

Starting with infrastructure, hybrid- and multi-cloud environments need to be augmented with additional system support, new apps, and greater security to support the always-on nature of competing in a virtual world. Providing self-service sales and support across any device at any time and keeping all systems synchronised is going to take more real-time integration, better security, more precise pricing, and so much more.

Consumer electronics manufacturers’ biggest challenge is reinventing their infrastructure while selling and serving customers at the same time. Part of their biggest challenge is protecting privileged access credentials that have become fragmented across hybrid- and multi-cloud environments. Everyone I’ve spoken with is balancing the urgent need for new revenue through new channels on the one hand with intensity to secure infrastructure and the most valuable security assets of all, privileged access credentials.

According to a 2019 study by Centrify among 1,000 IT decision-makers, 74% of respondents whose organisations have been breached acknowledged that it involved access to a privileged account. These are typically used by a small set of technical personnel to access the most critical systems in the IT estate, including modern technologies such as cloud, DevOps, microservices, and more. The CIO of a local financial services and insurance company, who is a former student and friend, told me that “it’s often said that privileged access credentials are the keys to the kingdom, and in these turbulent times they’re the keys to keeping any business running.”

CIOs, CISOs, and their teams are focusing on four key areas today while digitally reinventing themselves to provide more flexible options for customers:

  • Secure every new self-service selling and service channel from breaches.
  • Fast-track cloud projects to become 100% virtual and available.
  • Simplify infrastructure management by integrating IT and Operations Management across hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
  • Improve compliance reporting as well as reduce audit costs and associated fines.

Legacy privileged access management (PAM) can’t scale for today’s threats

Sophisticated social engineering and breach attempts are succeeding in misdirecting human responses to cyber threats, gaining access to valuable privileged access credentials in the process. Legacy PAM systems based on vaulting away shared and root passwords aren’t designed to protect hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments. These DevOps systems include containers and microservices, APIs, machines, or services. Furthermore, multi-cloud environments create additional challenges because access management tools used for one vendor cannot be used with another.

Switching from in-person to self-service selling and service creates new challenges and an entirely new series of requirements for identity and access management. These requirements include securing a continually-increasing number of workloads that cause the amount of data in the cloud to grow exponentially. There’s also the need to centralise identities for consistent access controls across hybrid and multi-cloud environments – all happening while a business is busy digitally reinventing itself. Compounding all of these challenges is the need to excel at delivering an excellent user experience without sacrificing security in an increasingly self-service, always-on, 24/7 world.

Securing privileged access in a post-COVID-19 world

If you’re looking for a sure sign any business will be around and growing in twelve months, look at how fast they are digitally reinventing themselves at the infrastructure level and protecting privileged access credentials first. Digital-first businesses are taking a more adaptive approach to consistently controlling access to hybrid infrastructure for both on-premises and remote users now.

Centrify and others are making rapid progress in this area, with Centrify’s Identity-Centric PAM taking a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach to securing privileged identities. Centrify’s approach to Identity-Centric PAM establishes per-machine trust so it can defend itself from illegitimate users – whether human or machine  – or those without the right entitlements. It then grants least privilege access just-in-time based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment as is illustrated in the graphic below:

Protecting Privileged Identities In A Post-COVID-19 World

Conclusion

Improving customer experiences needs to be at the centre of any digital transformation effort. As every business digitally transforms itself to survive and grow in a post-COVID-19 world out of necessity, they must also improve how they secure access to their cloud and on-premises infrastructure. Legacy PAM was designed for a time when all privileged access was constrained to resources inside the network, accessed by humans, using shared/root accounts.

Legacy PAM was not designed for cloud environments, DevOps, containers, or microservices. Furthermore, privileged access requesters are no longer limited to just humans, but also include machines, services, and APIs.

Privileged access requesters need greater agility, adaptability, and speed to support DevOps’ growing roadmap of self-service and increasingly safer apps and platforms. While privileged identities must be protected, DevOps teams need as much agility and speed as possible to innovate at the rapidly changing pace of how customers choose to buy in a post-COVID-19 world.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech ExpoBlockchain ExpoAI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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