Phased Approach: The Importance of Building a Mature PAM Program

Blog By: Xalient 

The ever-present cybersecurity threats and the high costs of cyber insurance are driving many organizations to consider building a mature Privileged Access Management (PAM) program to protect their systems and infrastructure.

When approaching PAM, organizations often view the process as a one-time solution implementation to help them stay compliant. The reality is that PAM (and IAM) is a program, not a project.  When building a mature program you must consider many factors, including the cost, resources, culture change adaptation, and identifying the risk surface.

A mature PAM program can take years to complete and even then, the PAM team should continue to evaluate and enhance their approach to fit the most relevant hacking and breaching trends and bring new accounts/technology under management. PAM and IAM platforms and technologies are constantly evolving and improving, which is another reason why organizations need to “refresh” their program from time to time.

Cyber security is a broad ecosystem that includes more than managing privileged accounts. It also includes business processes that affect the efficiency and reliability of the organization.

Taking a Phased Approach to Helping Ensure a Mature PAM Program

Malicious actors are always finding new ways to exploit systems and people, and privileged accounts are the number one targets. When building a program, it’s important to structure the process in a way that will first address the highest risks and show immediate results.  From there, structure the process to build upon that success and mature in stages.

Dividing the program into phases can lead to more success.

Program Phases:

Risk Identification

Identifying the risk surface for the company allows for a better planning process and enables organizations to prioritize their tasks based on their risk tolerance. Organizations can then tackle the most privileged accounts and allow the end user to adapt to the new processes seamlessly without causing any business disruptions.

Addressing PAM Fundamentals

Each organization’s risk surface is different, so the approach to PAM should differ as well.

Having a plan after the prioritization, in the first phase, can move the organization in the right direction and fit their ability to support the program with resources and funding. Addressing PAM fundamentals ensures that you mitigate the highest risk factors and close the biggest gaps around the usage and control of privileged accounts.

Improvements and Enhancements

This phase should expand the program to tackle different groups or correct current policies to be more granular. It can also be expanded to control access to endpoints and integrate with current tools to limit the privileges provided.

Part of the improvements you address can be the processes that enable end users to obtain privileges, or how machines, applications, or dev ops processes obtain credentials, and introducing new processes that align with the organization’s end goals.

Integration with other IAM platforms is another area of improvement to consider. If you’re managing PAM independent of your IGA program, you won’t have complete visibility of your organization’s access. This can cause dangerous access combinations or oversights that ultimately result in unnecessary security risks.  Integrating your PAM platform with your Identity Governance solution (like SailPoint or Saviynt) would solve this problem.

Benefits of a PAM IGA integration include:

  • A centralized view of user permissions on safes containing privileged access
  • Immediate provision for privileged access once approved
  • Include privileged access in enterprise access certifications
  • Include privileged access management in automated joiner workflows
  • Centralized location for reviewing, managing, or escalating PAM requests

Automated Life Cycle

After you have defined the necessary business processes needed to meet the compliance end goals, organizations can automate the life cycle of privileged accounts from provisioning until the time to offboard and decommission. Which would eliminate the human errors as well as the manual work.

Moving Forward – Understanding PAM and Building a Plan

Starting a PAM program can be intimidating at first due to the length of the process and the resources required to reach the end goal. However, with the right resources and plan, these phases can be reached successfully without business disruption.

One of the biggest concerns we encounter regarding PAM is that “We don’t know what we don’t know!” Scoping a PAM implementation and building a roadmap are understandably challenging.

We’ve developed a free workshop to help address the challenges that organizations face when addressing PAM.  It’s designed to teach Privileged Access Management concepts, tools, and how it fits into the larger IAM ecosystem. It also covers what a PAM roadmap looks like and what it takes to build one.

If you’re now considering addressing privileged access or need to “refresh” your PAM program, you might want to consider utilizing the free workshop to help you get started.  They’re always tailored to fit your specific needs:

Learn more here: