How privileged insiders threaten the security of global organizations
A new global survey from BeyondTrust explores the visibility, control, and management that IT organizations in the U.S., APAC, Europe and the Middle East have over employees, contractors, and third-party vendors with privileged access to their IT networks.
According to the report, 64% believe they’ve likely had either a direct or indirect breach due to misused or abused employee access in the last 12 months, and 62% believe they’ve had a breach due to compromised vendor access.
Poor security hygiene by employees continues to be a challenge for most organizations. Writing down passwords, for example, was cited as a problem by 60% of organizations, while colleagues telling each other passwords was also an issue for 58% of organizations in 2019, which is steadily on the rise from 2018’s statistics.
The report also highlighted regional differences, with only 20% of UK businesses expressing worries about employees downloading data onto a memory stick in the UK, while 42% see this as an issue in APAC.
The need for privileged access
Ultimately, 71% of organizations agree that they would be more secure if they restricted employee device access. However, this isn’t usually realistic, let alone conducive to productivity.
“Both internal employees and third-party vendors need privileged access to be able to do their jobs effectively, but need this access granted in a way that doesn’t compromise security or impede productivity,” commented Morey Haber, CTO & CISO of BeyondTrust. “In the face of growing threats, there has never been a greater need to implement organization-wide strategies and solutions to manage and control privileged access in a way that fits the needs of the user.”
The businesses surveyed reported an average of 182 vendors logging in to their systems every week. At organizations with 5,000+ employees, 23% say they have more than 500 vendors logging in regularly, highlighting the sheer scope of the risk exposure. This year’s report uncovered that trust in vendor access is now lower than trust in employee access, with only one in four saying they completely trust vendors, in comparison to 37% of employees.
This is a stark comparison to last year’s report, where 72% of businesses admitted that they have cultures that are too trusting of third parties. In an age where data breaches have immense financial and reputational implications for businesses, it’s a positive step that these organizations are now assessing the level of trust they place in their third-party vendors.
The report also delves into the threats posed by emerging technologies. The risks associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) posed a big concern for the professionals surveyed, with the visibility of logins from IoT devices revealed as the most pressing issue.
Three quarters (76%) are confident they know how many IoT devices are accessing their systems, while four in five are confident they know how many individual logins can be attributed to these devices. At the same time, 47% of security decision makers perceive at least a moderate risk from BYOD policies.
Privileged Access Management
The report did show that some organizations are managing these risks with a Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution.
From the research, these same organizations experience less severe security breaches and have better visibility and control than those who use manual solutions or no solution at all. In fact, 90% of those with fully integrated PAM tools are confident they can identify specific threats from employees with privileged access.
“As the vendor ecosystem grows, the threat landscape evolves and users should be granted specific role-based privileges. Organizations need to accept that the way to mitigate risks is by managing privileged accounts through integrated technology and automated processes that not only save time, but also provide visibility across the environment,” Haber added. “By implementing cybersecurity policies and solutions that also speed business efficiency, versus putting roadblocks in users’ way, organizations can begin to seriously tackle the privileged access problem.”