Enterprise Browser: The Gateway to Securing All Identities

February 21, 2024 Sobhan Pramanik

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With new identities, environments and attack methods dominating today’s threat landscape, cybersecurity leaders are hyper-focused on securing identities to safeguard enterprises. However, a glaring, high-touch security gap exists that threat actors actively exploit to steal confidential data. And unsuspecting as it seems, that gap lies in the most used enterprise application of all time – the web browser.

In today’s cloud-first world, browsers are the gateway to a company’s most critical assets and house sensitive information, such as user credentials and cookie data, making them prime targets for attackers. Yet, in a decidedly ironic reality, browser security rarely ranks on the priority list of security teams, making enterprises susceptible to attacks.

This seemingly nonsensical practice – or lack of practice – is primarily because organizations continue to use consumer-focused browsers for enterprise needs. Built for convenience over protection, these browsers enable access without securing it and lack the control and visibility security teams need to mitigate potential security incidents. This exposes organizations to various browser-based vulnerabilities – pre- and post-authentication, such as cookie hijacking, malware attacks on unmanaged endpoints and unauthorized user access leading to data exfiltration.

In an increasingly complex IT world, browsers that are disconnected from a broad end-to-end identity security infrastructure pose a massive threat to enterprises. For instance, workforce identities and their actions within browser environments often remain hidden from security teams, creating a gaping Achilles’ heel that enables attackers to steal confidential data without detection.

As such, security leaders need a solution that integrates a foundational identity security strategy into the browser environment and layers with existing infrastructure to balance enterprise security and workforce productivity effectively.

Securing Enterprise Web Browsing with an Identity-centric Approach

As organizations migrate to the cloud and the workforce grows, web browsers have become an intrinsic part of enterprise operations. From employees to third-party vendors – everyone uses a browser to access the confidential corporate resources required to do their jobs.

But with access comes risk, and mitigating it requires deep end user visibility and security control that traditional browsers aren’t designed to provide. Adding additional risk, employees often use the same work browser to access their personal data in cloud consoles. This can invite more opportunities for breaches, insider exfiltration and malware attacks.

Even for organizations with an identity and access management (IAM) strategy and dedicated privileged access management (PAM) solutions in place, browser-based vulnerabilities can easily expose them to potential threats and breaches.

The following are some common browser capabilities that, in an enterprise environment, can pose serious security threats:

  • Allowing users to install unverified extensions that can secretly upload data to attacker-controlled servers.
  • Providing enterprise workers with built-in tools to circumvent preventative controls put in place by the organization.
  • Enabling users to store passwords for all their applications – work-related and personal – in built-in password managers that are prone to breaches.

Attackers can harness the same basic functionalities designed for a convenient user browsing experience to carry out nefarious activities unless they are adequately protected. A prime example is cookie hijacking, where attackers steal, forge, alter or manipulate cookies from users’ web sessions to gain unauthorized access to sensitive resources. It’s a relatively simple post-authentication attack vector in which, in three steps, a threat actor:

  1. Acts as an imposter to hijack the cookies after a session has been authenticated.
  2. Replays the cookie in the session to bypass multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  3. Hijacks ongoing sessions to steal data, move laterally and escalate privileges to disrupt operations.

The bottom line is that enterprises need a comprehensive identity security strategy based on intelligent privilege controls that goes beyond endpoints into browsers to secure every workforce identity with access to the heart of your enterprise.

So, what does it take for browsers to integrate with your larger security infrastructure?

The simple answer would be extending the identity-based approach used for everything else into browsers. This would give IT teams the vantage point to ensure all workforce identities – employees, vendors and remote workers – adhere to risk-tolerant practices, guided by the principles of least privilege (PoLP) and just-in-time (JIT) access.

Navigating Today’s Threat Landscape with an Identity-focused Enterprise Browser

The actual value of an enterprise browser can be realized when combined with existing security infrastructure. For instance, enterprise browsers can prevent cookie hijacking by storing cookies on secure servers. This enables organizations to keep sensitive data beyond the reach of attackers so user web sessions, data and accounts remain protected.

Enterprise browsers should also come with built-in controls that can extend access to privileged targets using native integration to enable security teams to monitor end user activities within high-risk browser sessions, enforce policy-based browsing and prevent misuse of confidential corporate data.

By working together with other defense-in-depth solutions such as MFA, single sign-on (SSO) and session monitoring, enterprise browsers can:

  • Secure identities, endpoints, passwords and credentials from pre- and post-authentication attacks.
  • Enable users to access their resources and applications securely.
  • Unify identity security controls while ensuring privacy for every identity on every endpoint.

Breaking Browser Siloes to Balance Security and Productivity

While traditional browsers are largely siloed and not built to tackle the challenges posed by today’s identity-focused threat landscape, enterprise browsers alone can disrupt user experiences, given their restrictive controls.

For optimal web security and a seamless workforce experience, the enterprise browser and your current security solutions must work together to pave the way for an identity-based security posture that can prevent modern attacks.

Learn about CyberArk Secure Browser.

Sobhan Pramanik is a senior copywriter at CyberArk.

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