what is least employee privilege explained

What is Least Employee Privilege?

What is called least employee privilege? It is the method where the least privilege in a system is given to an employee to mitigate security risk. it is a term in IT security that restricts the use of a particular file, document, or software to a minimal level.

Essential documents and sensitive files are usually stored in a company’s database. The database always usually contains files that are vital to aiding workers in executing their jobs properly. But because these files are stored with sensitive files, others cannot view them; the company must find a way to grant permission to these files.

Least employee privilege Principles of least employee privilege

Here is where it comes in. The company now gives permission only to the files without exposing sensitive information.

Why is this so important? It is important because it prohibits liberal access to documents that are not meant to be shared, thereby reducing the risk of hackers getting hold of sensitive information about the organization. These could come from malware and viruses, putting your organization at risk. the workers only get access to what they need, eliminating distractions.

It’s a security measure that should never be underrated. It carries out a dual function by evening the essentials of an organization and safeguarding classified properties in a business. While sometimes, employees may mean well to the company, putting this liberal amount of access in their hands is advised against them as people with ill intentions like hackers could target them.

However, in every organization, some have more power than others and are higher up the hierarchy. The lowest level usually has the most insufficient rights, and others above him have more permission. These people are the most targeted by cybercriminals, as they have more rights; therefore, it is easier to go through them to gain access to the system.

Using this system in an organization helps avoid problems. It is safe and effective when used correctly.

Examples of Least Employee Privilege

The examples below have been simplified to help you understand them correctly.

This may sound quite complex since it concerns information security. But it isn’t at all. It’s widespread and happens to us in our daily lives.

Have you ever gone into a store, mall, or restaurant and seen a door leading to a room designated for employees and staff only? Customers are not allowed to go through that door. It’s out of bounds. Well, congratulations! Imagine you work in that mall, restaurant, or store, and you’re a cleaner. A cleaner will not have access to the cash register. Only the cashier or a higher official in the organization can use it.

Other examples include:

  1. Online forums, blogs, and chat rooms: In some organizations, may have forums strictly for workers. In those forums, not every part will be available to all because they may be prone to abuse. The admins hold most of the power here and are referred to as superuser. with the least access to these platforms may only be able to post messages but not delete them, or they may only be able to read messages but not comment or post.
  2. Sharing a file over a program: A person may decide to share some documents with his/her employees, which may contain assignments or projects for them to complete. She alone has access to that file and may choose to share or edit it. But her employees do not have this. They can only view the file she shared but cannot make any edits or use other files.
  3. In Google Docs: Tech companies like Google have a way of enforcing the least privilege for those who create a file with them. When you create a file, you can decide if you want to share it or not. An admin will provide a link for who you choose to share it with from your Google Docs account, which may contain other files. However, the person with whom the link is shared will only be able to see that file. The admin can also grant permission to edit the file or add more files, and the admin must give this instruction.

In public cloud software such as AWS, Linux, and Azure, it is explicitly preferred because it is the best way to strengthen security against cyber attacks. For example, Azure has many custom and built-in roles in helping to implement this.

Executing Least Privilege

It is wise to take measures to minimize attacks as much as possible. 

To successfully implement this, they are some vital stuff you need to do below:

  1. Reviewing and analyzing user accounts: This means auditing all user accounts to know who is violating the rules in the firm. Sometimes multiple versions may be a security risk. Auditing the accounts will help identify and correct them.
  2. Managing passwords: ensuring all accounts on the software set solid and complex passwords. It will help minimize risks to the software.
  3. Giving a time limit to all activities is essential. A short time limit will be ideal for security.
  4. User accounts must be distinctive when differentiating them into least and over privilege. And will help during an attack as it will be easier to spot the source.

Benefits of Least Privilege

By implementing it, you can minimize security risks. It ensures order in the organization. It gives excellent control over the system, among many others that will be discussed below;

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1. Accessibility issues result in a smaller attack surface and are more complex: Companies and organizations reduce the proneness of unpermitted access. It is helpful for businesses to overcome the risk of their systems being abused. Abuse of the system or systems occurs even in the event of an assault, leaving unknown users with little to work with.

2. Maximized and improved safety in the organization: By applying the principles, businesses can better safeguard themselves, their customers, and clients against privacy violations and data leaks. It guarantees more stringent security measures, improving the internal profile of entire organizations. Only trusted employees should have access to private portions of the database.

3. Lessens the spread of malware: By denying malware attacks to invade the system, dramatically lowers the spread and infection of malware. In this approach, other types of malware are prevented from extending and attacking different parts of the systems.

4. Aids companies to comply with security regulations: Companies that use this are more likely to pass security inspections. In addition to being an excellent security habit, an audit is increasingly mandated as part of necessary tests for systems security by numerous compliance laws from various industries.

Limitations of Least Privilege

It should not be the only security measure in a company. It is not enough to resist security attacks. It would be super if you also had other plans in check, as anything could go wrong at any time. Here are some of the shortcomings:

  1. Not enough access for people to do their job: Giving minimal rights to them may seem like a good idea, but this model always has issues as employees will not have the freedom to do their jobs properly.
  2. Too many restrictions may cause bureaucracy: They are a good security measure, but they may backfire when one has to take permission to complete a simple task.
  3. The least privilege may not be ideal for huge companies because sometimes, the bigger the company is, the more complex its organizational level is.
  4. Prolonged access: When rights are given but not taken back immediately, it could expose the company to security risks.
  5. Contractors may also be given access: Sometimes, when the job is done, those are not taken from them.

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