The importance of privilege accounts to digital organizations and their appeal to cyber attackers has made Privilege Access Management (PAM) an essential component of an identity and access management portfolio. Quite often, customers will see this as purely as a security investment, protecting the company’s crown jewels against theft by organized crime and against fraudulent use by internals. More successful cyber-attacks are now enabled by attackers gaining access to privilege accounts.

However, that is only part of the story. Organizations also must worry about meeting governance and compliance demands from governments and industry bodies. Central to these are penalties, often quite stringent, that punish organizations that lose data or fail to meet data usage rules. These rules are multiplying; the most recent being the new California Privacy Act (CCPA) that joins GDPR (personal data), PCI-DSS (payment data) and HIPAA (medical data) in affecting organizations across the globe.

Along came the GDPR

In the run up to GDPR in 2018, alert security and governance managers realised that better control of identity and access management in an organization went some way to achieving compliance. Further, there was a realisation that PAM could give more granular control of those highly privileged accounts that criminals were now actively targeting and putting them in danger of falling foul of compliance laws.

Digital transformation ushered in an era of growth in cloud, big data, IoT, containers as organizations sought to get a competitive advantage. This led to an increase in data and access points and privileged accounts multiplied. Those accounts that had access to personal and customer data were at particular risk.

Digital transformation brings new challenges

The PAM market in 2020 is set for change as vendors realise that customers need to protect privilege accounts in new environments like DevOPs or cloud infrastructures that are part of digital transformation. Increasingly organizations will grant privilege access on a Just in Time (JIT) or One Time Only (OTO) basis to reduce reliance on vaults to store credentials, simplify session management and to achieve their primary goal - speed up business processes. However, this acceleration of the privilege process introduces new risks to compliance if PAM solutions are not able to secure the new processes.

The good news is that vendors are responding to these demands with established players introducing new modules for DevOPs and JIT deployment for their PAM suites, while smaller start-ups are seeing niches in the market and acting accordingly with boutique PAM solutions for more digital environments.

PAM reduces risk but does not guarantee compliance

None of this means that an organization will be fully compliant just because it beefs up its PAM solutions across the board. Done well, it will reduce the risk of data loss through infiltration of privilege accounts by some percentage points, and along the way tick some boxes in every CISO’s favourite security standard, ISO 27001. An organization also needs to harden data centres, improve web security and improve auditing - among other tasks.