Serving Secure Access: Inside the Privileged Access Ice Cream Parlor

July 1, 2024 Ryne Laster

rainbow ice cream

Imagine standing in your favorite ice cream parlor, gazing at myriad flavors chilling behind the counter. The choices are tantalizing, from traditional vanilla and chocolate to a swirl of the two. Ice cream flavors have evolved from these bases into cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, Neapolitan, birthday cake, Rocky Road, butter pecan and coffee – you get the picture.

Ice cream is a lot like privileged access management (PAM) solutions. Both rely on foundational elements: vaulting and rotating credentials, isolating high-risk sessions and auditing actions taken with privileged accounts. These controls, like vanilla and chocolate, are essential for a successful, scalable PAM program.

But what happens when the basics no longer suffice?

Just as ice cream comes in multiple flavors, building a PAM solution that fits your organization’s needs can help reduce the attack surface as your ecosystem expands.

Scooping the Basics: PAM’s Fundamental Flavors

In the world of ice cream, as in PAM, the classics serve as the cornerstone for creativity. Vanilla, chocolate and swirl are not just timeless favorites; they are the essential foundations upon which all other flavors are built. Similarly, in any PAM practice, the basics of vaulting credentials, rotating them regularly and isolating and monitoring privileged sessions are the bedrock upon which a secure and scalable program is constructed. Let’s scoop into the details:

  • Password Vaulting: It’s a classic favorite, like vanilla ice cream. It ensures that privileged account credentials are securely stored and managed, preventing unauthorized access and reducing the risk of credential theft.
  • Credential Rotation: Chocolate ice cream and credential rotation are timeless. Regularly changing privileged account passwords mitigates risks associated with compromised credentials.
  • Session Monitoring and Isolation: Combining vanilla and chocolate into a swirl, session monitoring and isolation provide visibility into privileged sessions, allowing organizations to monitor activities and isolate risky or unauthorized actions.

These foundational privilege controls are crucial but are just the beginning of a holistic PAM solution. Just as chocolate and vanilla can be enjoyed on their own, these basics lay the groundwork for modernizing a PAM strategy with additional “flavors.”

The diagram below represents how foundational and modern PAM controls come together to optimize privilege controls beyond built-in, vaulted credentials.

PAM controls with access

Sprinkling in Innovation: PAM’s Modern Flavors

Just as the classic flavors of vanilla, chocolate and swirl lay the groundwork for an endless variety of ice cream experiences, the foundational components of PAM – password vaulting, credential rotation and session monitoring – set the stage for a more sophisticated suite of security features. As we delve into the modern PAM flavors, we’ll discover how these essential elements evolve to meet the complex demands of today’s threat landscape. These flavors (aka components) are:

  • Expanded Scope and New-Environment Coverage (Cookies and Cream): Like cookies and cream adds texture and complexity to vanilla, modern PAM solutions secure access not only to traditional systems but also to cloud workloads, DevOps tools, robotic process automation (RPA) and internet of things (IoT) devices.
  • Modern Session Management and Monitoring (Cookie Dough): Advanced session management and monitoring features, akin to cookie dough ice cream, take privileged access visibility to new heights with keystroke logging, video recording and real time session monitoring.
  • Robust Risk Analytics and Reporting (Rocky Road): Like Rocky Road, which combines chocolate, marshmallows and nuts for complexity, modern PAM solutions offer robust risk analytics and reporting capabilities, analyzing user behavior and detecting potential threats.
  • Seamless Integration and Automation (Mint Chocolate Chip): Mint chocolate chip blends refreshing mint with decadent chocolate chips. Similarly, seamless integration and automation features in PAM solutions streamline operations and reduce human error by integrating with other security tools.
  • Support for DevOps and Agile Methodologies (Strawberry Cheesecake): Just as strawberry cheesecake combines unique flavors, modern PAM solutions support DevOps and agile methodologies with features like just-in-time (JIT) access provisioning and automated secrets management.
  • Scalability and Flexibility (Neapolitan): Neapolitan ice cream offers three flavors in one package. Modern PAM programs provide scalability and flexibility, supporting large-scale deployments and hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

A modern PAM program combines foundational aspects with modernized features, holistically reducing risk and managing privileged access. Like ice cream, PAM is versatile and should be integrated into various security strategies.

The PAM Sundae: A Staple Security Treat

As we layer our PAM Sundae with a variety of security measures, let’s explore the key components that make up this complete treat. Each element not only adds its own unique flavor but also enhances the overall protection, just like the perfect blend of toppings on a sundae. Here’s a taste of what makes our PAM strategy so satisfying:

  • Securing Developers (Apple Pie à la Mode): Just as Apple Pie à la mode elevates a classic dessert, PAM solutions secure developer access to critical systems, managing secrets and integrating with DevOps tools.
  • Secrets Management (Milkshake): A milkshake becomes indulgent with ice cream, just as modern PAM programs enhance security with robust secrets management for API keys, database credentials and encryption keys.
  • Remote Access Management (Affogato): An affogato combines hot espresso and ice cream. Similarly, modern PAM solutions provide secure remote access for contractors and third-party users, enforcing least-privilege principles.
  • Machine Identity Management (Banana Split): Like a banana split combines multiple flavors and toppings, machine identity management in PAM secures public key infrastructure, server certificates, SSH keys and other non-human credentials.
  • Endpoint Privilege Management (Baked Alaska): Baked Alaska combines sponge cake and ice cream in a meringue shell. Endpoint privilege management in PAM controls administrative rights and applications while enforcing least privilege policies on endpoints.
  • Workforce Identity Management (Ice Cream Sandwich): Ice cream sandwiches are convenient and delicious. PAM solutions integrate with workforce identity management to secure access for employees, contractors and third-party users to ensure security for all identities inside and outside of the organization.

PAM Delights: The Cherry on Top of Security

Modernizing your PAM practice involves securing built-in admin accounts with vaulting and rotating credentials and extending these controls to federated access and roles with JIT access models, zero standing privileges (ZSP) and web session protection. Including secrets management, enforcing least privilege on workstations and servers, managing machine and non-human identities and securing the workforce are essential for a comprehensive modern PAM program.

To wrap up our journey through the Privileged Access Ice Cream Parlor, we’ve savored a variety of PAM flavors that together create a robust security strategy. From the solid base of password vaulting and credential rotation to the delightful toppings of advanced session management and risk analytics, each element adds its own singular flavor to the mix. Like a sundae without a cherry on top, a comprehensive PAM program isn’t complete without integrating workforce identity management and securing the workforce. It’s the final touch that brings all the flavors together, creating a treat that’s not only irresistible but also ensures that every scoop is secure.

Ryne Laster is a product marketing manager at CyberArk.

Previous Article
Why Implementing Identity Security Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
Why Implementing Identity Security Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Every organization is different, with its own unique needs, challenges and goals. That means that IT soluti...

Next Article
Identity Security: The Keystone of Trust
Identity Security: The Keystone of Trust

A few weeks ago, my wife asked me why stopping threat actors from impacting our lives is so difficult. In t...