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Security Education

Applying Privileged Knowledge Management to Your MSP

By SolarWinds Passportal

The concept of privileged accounts—accounts that have access to protected data within an organization—is an important one in IT circles, and it’s especially important for managed services providers (MSPs). Privileged accounts give users the ability to access and alter a wide variety of IT systems, potentially sensitive data, and business-critical infrastructure.

Privileged accounts, also known as administrative accounts, provide several benefits to companies and organizations. However, they also present a risk if not properly protected. Cybercrime is a big and flourishing business that continues to grow. That’s why it’s in the best interests of MSPs to institute privileged access management best practices to protect their customers’ data.

What is privileged access management?

Privileged identity and access management refers to the processes involved in maintaining security best practices by restricting access to specific applications, devices, systems, functions, and sensitive data. Access should be determined based on which assets end users require to carry out their authorized routines.

By following the strategic goal of “least privilege,” MSPs and MSSPs help reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities for customers. In doing so, they also take steps to mitigate or prevent the potential harm caused by both external hacks and internal malicious behavior or negligence.

Why is privileged access management important?

Privileged access management is first and foremost a security issue. Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly complex and subtle, and restricting administrative permissions for end users is one of the most important ways you can reduce your customers’ attack surface. Robust and proactive privileged access management practices—especially when paired with strong group policy management—ensures you’re providing customers with a high security ROI.

Privileged accounts will always be valuable targets for hackers, which means they need to be monitored around the clock. However, the inherent complexity of IT means it’s rare for every control situation to be accounted for. Restricting admin privileges to a select pool of users allows you to quickly detect and respond to any issues that may arise, which supports the fact that successful hacks and data breaches are proportionately higher against non-privileged accounts than administrator accounts.

Privileged access management also helps keep customers protected from unintended harm. These days, companies of all shapes and sizes rely on complex IT computing environments and assets for even the simplest of business functions. Making even minor changes to one part of the environment could have a potentially drastic effect on application availability, network performance, and the integrity of other resources. Given the increased sophistication of hacking attempts in the past decade—many of which can include convincing impersonations of trustworthy or superior personnel—it’s more critical than ever to keep a narrow pool of privileged accounts.

Multi-factor authentication is another security capability that you can layer on top of privileged access management for optimal results. By mandating that privileged accounts be protected with identity verification that requires two or more distinct credentials, MSPs can ensure sensitive customer data is harder for cyberattackers to reach.

Additional benefits of privileged access management solutions

The good news is that there are software solutions like SolarWinds® Passportal that automate and streamline the numerous processes involved in privileged access management and client data protection. Granular access features mean that MSPs can easily control which technicians can perform key functions or view sensitive data—to ensure safety for your own business and your customers’.

Good privileged access management programs will also create records from multiple different data and info streams, providing administrators and security staff with valuable insights on different forms of account activity and usage. This allows you to monitor things like which users are accessing which account, password reset counts, and other metrics about privileged account usage and security that can help identify breaches before they occur.

By monitoring and maintaining lists of assets, credentials, and users that have privileged access, these privileged access management solutions also help to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. No matter how big or small your MSP is, implementing granular privileged access amongst your technicians will reduce your risk.

Privileged access management solutions also help to keep you and customers up to code regarding data security standards. Because the cloud is now the standard for data storage, many IT organizations are entrusted to keep a huge amount of potentially sensitive information safe. To ensure that organizations do their best to protect sensitive data, several regulatory benchmarks have been instituted across various industries. For example, HIPAA exists to ensure patient medical records are protected. If MSPs or customers fail to pass security audits per these benchmarks, they stand to face hefty fines.

Several regulatory measures either recommend or require controls specific to managing the risks of high-privilege IT access. Mandates such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”), for example, require publicly traded businesses to implement processes and controls to assure responsible governance. Opting for a privileged access manager program goes a long way toward ensuring that you’re demonstrably in compliance with standards and regulations.

To learn more about Passportal and the security benefits it provides, request a demo today


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SolarWinds® adds Passportal suite to its MSP product portfolio. MSP security, simplified. SolarWinds® Passportal + Documentation Manager is a SOC 2 certified, RAPID 7 tested, award winning platform.

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