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Regardless of the business you are in, you likely must adhere to some government guidelines or regulations (HIPAA, GDPR, Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI DSS, ISO/IEC 27002 controls, etc.) regarding how you store, use and secure information. This is especially true if your business leverages personally identifiable information (PII) such as addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, or user passwords. Failure to secure PII can lead to data breaches, regulatory fines, and damage your brand reputation.

The key to securing PII, personal health information (PHI), or any other personal data, is to limit and control access to the information. This is done through policy and access enforcement and reporting. Password management just isn’t enough. Securing personal data requires managing and monitoring privileged credentials that have a higher level of access to systems within an organization. To meet government or industry regulations, companies must document control, lockdown privilege accounts, monitor shared accounts, and record sessions to understand who accessed personal information, what they did and when.

In the best of times, securing PII information can be hard. During a pandemic when 60% to 80% of workers are remote – this can seem like a herculean task. And cybercriminals have seized on this opportunity as more people are using VPNs, personal devices, cloud solutions, and home networks to conduct business. This creates new entry points for malicious actors to execute malware, ransomware, and brute force attacks to access your systems and sensitive data.

Remote access creates new challenges with regard to monitoring privileged access. If your privileged users leverage a VPN to connect to systems you might be putting your PII at risk. VPNs typically allow users to access everything in your network rather than specific areas. If hackers get a hold of privileged credentials it opens the door to your infrastructure and data. Secondly, VPNs do not provide adequate auditing services and reporting required for sensitive systems and information. This can leave you at risk during your next audit review.

Privileged Access Management Systems Can Help

PAM software offers end-to-end control for your privileged passwords, secrets, certificates, and documents. By putting privileged credentials inside a secure vault, privileged users must go through the PAM software and be authenticated in order to access their credentials. This provided an added layer of security for protecting systems that store PII.

Here are 5 ways PAM software helps you protect personal data and meet audit requirements even during a pandemic.

Remote Employee Gateway – PAM software can be used as a secure gateway for privileged users and admins who are working remotely. For example, Xton Access Manager (XTAM) brokers access using HTTPs to specific resources. This way companies can use their existing identity provider such as active directory (AD), AzureAD, Office365, Google Authentication, etc. Using PAM software as a gateway ensures that you have audit trails, video recording, and notifications. PAM as a remote gateway should be reserved for only individuals who need privileged accounts or trust third parties/partners who require access to critical systems or information to perform their job functions.

Discover Privileged Accounts – Does your organization know how many privileged accounts it has? Privileged accounts aren’t just for special users or IT admins. Privileged accounts can come in the form of domain, network, local, active directory, cloud, emergency, service to application accounts. If your company added new software, cloud services or IoT devices to help with remote work, these credentials need to be managed in order to limit your risk and maintain PII compliance. PAM software can automate the discovery of all types of privileged accounts. You can send a discovery query across your network to locate and report on found privileged endpoints and their configurations. This includes IoT and network devices that can sometimes appear unnoticed. Scans can be automatically scheduled to run at specific intervals to identify new records and place them under management. If you haven’t already run discovery for new privileged accounts, you might want to consider it and locking down any new accounts.

Alerts Notifications – PAM software can be set up to send alerts and notifications around the discovery of new privilege accounts, when passwords are reset or for any privileged script activities. You can also create alerts around what users are sharing, using, or how they are modifying records.  Alerts help IT administrators and auditors maintain control of systems and data by identifying new accounts and potentially suspicious activity as it happens.

Complete Audit Trail – This goes without saying, but PAM software is designed to provide auditing and reporting capabilities. PAM tools, like XTAM even when used as a secure gateway, offer auditing for all access and usage events. This includes recording sessions, keystrokes, and more. CSOs and compliance offers can see exactly what, when and by whom records or secrets were created, accessed, modified or deleted.

Implement the Principle of Least Privilege – PAM tools allow enterprises to create role-based access controls that allow IT to control privileges based on a user’s role. This allows companies to restrict access rights for users, accounts, and computers/applications to only those resources/permissions required to perform their job effectively. By implementing the principle of least privilege, companies can prevent “over-privileged access” by users, applications, or services. This limits the risk of network or data damage. With a growing remote workforce, companies may want to evaluate and further restrict their roles-based controls as a way to protect systems and information.  Companies can also use PAM software to help automate the offboarding process as needed.

If you haven’t considered implementing PAM software, now is a good time to evaluate and begin securing your most sensitive data and simplify audit reporting. We make it easy for anyone to try XTAM and offer a free trial to see if it’s right for you. XTAM offers enterprise PAM functionality in one affordable, cloud-ready platform. XTAM offers out of the box compliance solutions for several regulatory controls across multiple guidelines –GDPR, NIST 800-171, ISO 2700, HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and many more.

Our unique approach – one platform, modern architecture, agentless, agile development, and commitment to customer support – allows us to eliminate the unnecessary complexities associated with traditional PAM solutions. Whether you’re looking to enhance remote access security, meet compliance regulations or proactively looking for ways to stay protected, XTAM can help.

Background vector created by pikisuperstar –

Mark Klinchin

I am Co-Founder and CEO of Xton Technologies. I am interested in computers, software development, cyber security, content management, photography, image processing and mathematics.

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