The principle of least privilege is a vital principle that directly affects the three foundational principles in Information Security known as the CIA Triad; they are confidentiality, integrity, and availability. These three must form the basis of any information security program, and each one relies heavily on the principle of least privilege when it comes to access control. In this article, we’ll explore the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP) and what it means for your business’ approach to technology. After all, the most important thing every business wants to protect is their data. Let’s explore this topic further.
What is The Principle of Least Privilege (POLP)?
POLP seeks to address the security issues associated with access control. It states that people should only have the least amount of access privilege required for their role and function in the organization. While having less privilege or access than necessary is self-explanatory and counterproductive, having more than essential poses a distinct security threat.
For example, suppose a warehouse supervisor is responsible for monitoring the clock-in times of the employees in his department. In this case, the supervisor should only be able to access the clock-in times but not have access to department payroll or personal information. In addition, they will likely only have access to the information for the employees in their own department and not the rest of the organization.
Each employee requiring access must be restricted to only the access they need and not receive any more. In doing so, sensitive data is protected, and data breaches are avoided. It is also helpful in tracking data breaches because the number of staff who have access to specific data sets is limited by necessity.
Another Important acronym in Information Security is the framework of AAA: Authentication, Authorization, and Accountability. The principle of least privilege falls directly into the second A – Authorization. Authentication relates to identifying the user, and authorization is all about what privileges they have during this access. Finally, tracking their actions would fall under the third A of Accountability.
Who Or What Should The POLP Apply To?
Most of the time, the principle is applied to employees in an organization. They should only have the very least amount of privilege and access that enables them to perform their tasks successfully. However, the principle of least privilege doesn’t only apply to individuals, though. It can also include:
In the technology world of access control, all of these entities much be evaluated to determine their access to resources or objects (passive entities that contain or receive information), such as systems, files, applications, directories, databases, and ports.
The Importance of POLP
The principle might seem logical and seemingly obvious to adopt, but many organizations do not apply it correctly. For example, sometimes it’s easier to grant blanket access to staff who only need specific access, and sometimes systems aren’t set up correctly to segment access based on necessity. As mentioned earlier, the principle of least privilege is vital to the CIA Triad, which forms the basis for everything that Information Security seeks to achieve. Here are some examples:
- Confidentiality – A staff member who has access to another employee’s salary or other personal information directly breaches confidentiality.
- Integrity – An inexperienced employee who can unnecessarily access editable statistics can compromise the integrity of the data-changing information.
- Availability – An employee who deletes essential information they have unnecessary access to can affect the data available for everyone.
Best Practices To Apply The Principle of Least Privilege Effectively
Many businesses approach the POLP process with an experienced technology partner to guide them. Applying the principles depends on the following best practices:
- Adopt the principle of least privilege as default – Least privilege should be the standard or default for all access policies. Any extra access that is required can be arranged, but Information Security should ensure that the default is that nobody gets any more access than they need.
- It isn’t enough on its own – The principle needs to be used in conjunction with other access-based IS principles like ‘separation of duties’ and ‘need-to-know.’
- Privileged accounts should be limited – Bad players often target accounts with full privilege, and these accounts should be limited to only those who need them.
- Review logs frequently – Information Security Officers should log and monitor all authentications and authorizations to critical systems and review records daily. In addition, automation should summarize everyday events and alert you to anything unusual.
- Constantly reevaluate accounts and privileges – This is an essential one. Since roles are constantly changing and many organizations use freelance and temporary employees, the regular review and assessment of privilege should be a defined task assigned to an employee.
- Use time-limited privileges – You don’t have to keep chopping and changing security privileges. Time-limited privilege settings are available, ideal for temp workers, substitutes and freelance workers who are only employed for a set amount of time.
In closing, the best advice for anybody looking to control the access to systems is to seek help from the technology experts at Conscious Networks. Conscious Networks is a technology solutions provider that can help you and your business consider network infrastructure and POLP protocols. Ready to learn more or talk about access control, information security, or any other technology needs you may have? Contact us today to chat about your network architecture. We can help you develop a strategy that works best for your growing business.