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Exposing Cybersecurity’s Hidden Threat: Privilege Creep

By Tom Seest

What Are The Dangers Of Privilege Creep In Cybersecurity?

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Privilege creep is the gradual accumulation of access privileges that go undetected and unnecessary, leading to data breaches, identity theft and ransomware attacks.
Employees may require elevated permissions for a short time in order to finish projects or handle special situations. However, these should be revoked once the task is completed.

What Are The Dangers Of Privilege Creep In Cybersecurity?

What Are The Dangers Of Privilege Creep In Cybersecurity?

Are Your Permissions Putting Your Cybersecurity at Risk?

Privileged Access Management (PAM) is one of the most important security initiatives organizations can implement to mitigate cyber risk. As its name implies, PAM focuses on exercising fine-grained control over privileged identities and activities across IT environments.
This is accomplished by restricting access rights and permissions to the minimum necessary for routine, authorized tasks based on contextual factors that change over time. For instance, users can only access certain applications, submit transactions, or perform computing processes that they have been granted authorization to.
Organizations utilize a range of cybersecurity strategies and technologies that fall under the domain of privilege management to address this challenge. These may include:

Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

ABAC is an identity-centric, policy-based security model that allows organizations to define and manage access policies based on user attributes. These attributes can represent almost anything about the individual, from their business needs to how they use technology.
Once these attributes are in place, they can be utilized to assign permissions on a per-user or per-role basis. These permissions are tied directly to the protected resources and scopes within the system and enforced in real time as they are accessed.
By taking this approach, organizations can restrict access and permissions to only those applications, devices, or processes necessary for business objectives while still enabling users to perform their daily tasks without jeopardizing IT security.
Additionally, this strategy can assist companies in achieving the flexibility and user-friendliness they seek. For instance, organizations can rely on ABAC to create and manage user profiles that are straightforward to comprehend, granting anyone with authority the authority to update a user’s permissions as necessary.
Organizations can then make informed decisions regarding who has access to what data and systems at any given time, thus decreasing their overall cybersecurity risk.
Unfortunately, this could also present a security risk as insiders could potentially abuse it for malicious purposes. To guard against such breaches, organizations need an effective security policy which can be enforced by their IT department or security team; otherwise, users could exploit permission aggregation to gain access to sensitive data.

Are Your Permissions Putting Your Cybersecurity at Risk?

Are Your Permissions Putting Your Cybersecurity at Risk?

Are You Vulnerable to Horizontal Privilege Escalation?

In cybersecurity, privilege escalation occurs when an attacker exploits vulnerabilities to gain administrative access to systems and resources. It often takes the form of a multi-stage attack, with exploits taking advantage of misconfigurations in systems or weak passwords; weak access controls allowing attackers to escalate their privileges to administrator, root or domain administrator status.
In cybersecurity, there are two forms of privilege escalation: vertical and horizontal. Vertical privilege escalation involves attackers starting from a lower level of permission and working their way up to higher privileges required to perform an assigned task.
One of the most widespread methods of vertical privilege escalation in Windows is known as a sticky key attack, which exploits an OS flaw to allow a user to elevate their privileges with just one keystroke. This attack allows hackers to modify a file within Windows that triggers a special function five times, giving them access to its kernel and running malicious code.
Another form of privilege escalation involves exploiting insecure service permissions. This can occur when an attacker alters a path in service configuration to launch a binary that will create a reverse shell or elevate their own privileges on the system.
Horizontal privilege escalation is more intricate than vertical access because it requires knowledge of how the operating system functions. An attacker could, for instance, replace an executable of a service with their own to gain the same access rights that the original service had.
Depending on the severity of a cyberattack, these privileged credentials can give an attacker access to alter system settings, install malware and ransomware or steal data. This poses a major privileged account attack vector that IT security teams must prioritize during their privileged access management (PAM) journey.
To prevent horizontal privilege escalation attacks, implement a strong password policy and require multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all accounts with administrative credentials. Your password policy should also include requirements for complexity and an age limit on digital credentials.

Are You Vulnerable to Horizontal Privilege Escalation?

Are You Vulnerable to Horizontal Privilege Escalation?

Can You Protect Your Identity from Privilege Creep?

Identity theft is a type of cybercrime in which criminals use victims’ personal information to commit fraud. This crime has grown far beyond just credit card scams and can have an enormously detrimental effect on those affected by it.
Identity thieves can use this information to commit a variety of crimes, such as opening new credit cards or loans in the victim’s name, applying for government benefits and getting medical care using their health insurance details. They may also file tax returns and claim refunds, make purchases with the victim’s credit card and steal airline miles or other forms of travel rewards.
Identity thieves often employ phishing and other social engineering techniques to access sensitive information. This can be done through email, text messages, websites, and other media forms.
Another popular identity theft strategy involves hacking into an individual’s computer through malicious software called malware. This allows the perpetrator to access their personal information and even take control of their system.
It can also be employed to monitor and record the activities of an individual, such as their location or online browsing habits. The perpetrator can then use this data for criminal activities like taking funds from someone’s bank account or accessing personal files.
Business identity theft is a serious threat to small and mid-size businesses, particularly startups and sole proprietorships. A company’s reputation can be irreparably damaged if its operations are compromised by an unscrupulous hacker.
It is especially pertinent in today’s digital world, where customer relationships are increasingly digital. Customers typically check a business’ website and social media profiles before making a purchase. If cybercriminals can manipulate these sites and induce visitors to click on malicious links, they could then leverage trust to steal financial data or access an entrepreneur’s account.
Aside from financial losses, companies may experience a loss of trust from customers after an identity theft incident. This can have serious repercussions for the profitability of a business and prevent it from becoming profitable again.

Can You Protect Your Identity from Privilege Creep?

Can You Protect Your Identity from Privilege Creep?

Are Your Sensitive Data at Risk? Understanding Privilege Creep in Cybersecurity

Data theft is a type of cybercrime that involves the theft or compromise of sensitive information from an organization, or allowing outsiders access to that data. This could include anything from online passwords and Social Security numbers to medical records.
Thefts are a major cause of data breaches. They can be perpetrated by either an external malicious attacker or an insider with illicit intentions, and either case could have severe repercussions such as fines, damaged reputations and lost trust among customers.
Digital criminals typically target organizations with lax data protection standards and systems, as well as outdated software applications or a weak firewall. They take advantage of these flaws to launch phishing campaigns, malware attacks, ransomware attacks and other exploits to break into the organization’s network and access confidential data.
Other factors that may contribute to data theft include human error and lax security practices. Employees who fail to adhere to strict password restrictions can give hackers access to their personal devices, which may contain sensitive data like bank account or credit card info.
Unauthorized data transfer between servers or databases is another common form of theft. This can occur when a company’s servers or database are compromised, leading to system outages and lost files.
Many of these incidents take place without the organization’s knowledge, so it is imperative to monitor user behavior and detect unusual file accesses or modifications. This can be accomplished through access management solutions and other tools which help control device usage, enable safe data transfers, monitor employee activity, and more.
Furthermore, an effective data security program should also include regular penetration testing and auditing to detect any vulnerabilities that could lead to data thefts. By taking these measures, organizations can reduce their exposure to theft of sensitive information while remaining compliant with regulations like GDPR or HIPAA.
Employees can pose a major threat to data security. Rogue employees or disgruntled contractors could exploit corporate data for financial gain or personal gain, copy customer and prospect info, or even steal proprietary code vital to the company.

Are Your Sensitive Data at Risk? Understanding Privilege Creep in Cybersecurity

Are Your Sensitive Data at Risk? Understanding Privilege Creep in Cybersecurity

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