Whitepaper

AI, Machine Learning and Privileged Access Management

Choosing a PAM solution has become a complex, and potentially time consuming, decision for modern organizations but one they must get right. If trends such as customer identities or privileged accounts used by DevOps are to be managed securely, then the final purchasing decision rests on carefully selecting solutions with the right feature sets. New technologies such as machine learning and AI are now being added to PAM solutions.

Paul Fisher

pf@kuppingercole.com

Comissioned by Arcon

1 Introduction

Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions are critical cybersecurity controls that address the security risks associated with the use of privileged access in organizations and companies. Traditionally, there have been primarily two types of privileged users.

Privileged IT users are those who need access to the IT infrastructure supporting the business. Such permissions are usually granted to IT admins who need access to system accounts, software accounts or operational accounts. These are often referred to as superusers

There are now also privileged business users, those who need access to sensitive data and information assets such as HR records, payroll details, financial information or intellectual property, and social media accounts.

The picture has become more complicated with many more of these non-traditional users requiring and getting privileged access to IT and business data. Some will be employees working on special projects, others may be developers building applications or third-party contractual workers. With the onset of digital transformation, organizations have seen the number of privilege users multiply as new types of operations such as DevOps have needed access to privileged accounts.

In recent years, PAM solutions have become more sophisticated making them robust security management tools in themselves. While credential vaulting, password rotation, controlled elevation and delegation of privileges, session establishment and activity monitoring are now almost standard features, more advanced capabilities such as privileged user analytics, risk-based session monitoring, advanced threat protection, and the ability to embrace PAM scenarios in an enterprise governance program are becoming the new standard to protect against today’s threats Many vendors are integrating these feature into comprehensive PAM suites while a new generation of providers are targeting niche areas of privileged access management Overall it’s one of the more dynamic and interesting parts of security and access management.

Among the key challenges that drive the need for privilege management are:

  • Abuse of shared credentials
  • Abuse of elevated privileges by unauthorized users
  • Hijacking of privileged credentials by cyber-criminals
  • Abuse of privileges on third-party systems
  • Accidental misuse of elevated privileges by users
  • The requirement to perform attestations on privileged users and admin accounts

Furthermore, there are several other operational, governance and regulatory requirements associated with privileged access:

  • Discovery of shared accounts, software and service accounts across the IT infrastructure
  • Identifying and tracking of ownership of privileged accounts throughout their lifecycle
  • Establishing Single Sign-on sessions to target systems for better operational efficiency of administrators
  • Auditing, recording and monitoring of privileged activities for regulatory compliance
  • Managing, restricting, and monitoring administrative access of IT outsourcing vendors and MSPs to internal IT systems
  • Managing, restricting, and monitoring administrative access of internal users to cloud services

In recent years, PAM solutions have become more sophisticated making them robust security management tools. While credential vaulting, password rotation, privilege delegation and activity monitoring are now more common, more advanced capabilities such as privileged user analytics, risk-based session monitoring, advanced threat protection, and the ability to embrace PAM into an enterprise governance program are the new standard to protect against today’s threats in complex environments

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