Research Papers

Watching the Watchers: Guarding the Keys to the Kingdom (Privileged User Management)

By Mike Rothman

Most organizations focus on the attackers out there – which means they may miss attackers who have the credentials and knowledge to do real damage. These are “privileged users”, and far too many organizations don’t do enough to protect themselves from that group. By the way – this doesn’t necessarily require a malicious insider. It is very possible (if not plausible) that a privileged user’s device might gets compromised, giving an attacker access to the administrator’s credentials. A bad day all around. So we wrote a paper called Watching the Watchers: Guarding the Keys to the Kingdom describing the problem and offering ideas for solutions.

A compromised P-user can cause all sorts of damage and so needs to be actively managed. Let’s now talk about solutions. Most analysts favor models to describe things, and we call ours the Privileged User Lifecycle.

But pretty as the lifecycle diagram is, first let’s scope it to define beginning and ending points. Our lifecycle starts when the privileged user receives escalated privileges, and ends when they are no longer privileged or leave the organization, whichever comes first.

The Privilged User Lifecycle

We would like to thank Xceedium for sponsoring this research. Check the paper out – we think it’s a great overview of an issue every organization faces. At least those with administrators.

Download Watching the Watchers: Guarding the Keys to the Kingdom