Contributor:
Russell Smith
March 28th, 2013

New regulation for financial institutions calls for least privilege implementation

Singapore’s central bank, The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), is preparing to issue new guidelines for IT technology risk management that will replace its previous Internet Banking Technology Risk Management (IBTRM) guidelines, last updated in June 2008. MAS acts on behalf of the government to regulate financial institutions operating in Singapore. What is even more interesting is that a large number of international banking organizations are using MAS as their compliance foundation for a risk management framework.

MAS carried out a consultation process last year to update IBTRM, including a Notice on Technology Risk Management paper, which in addition to the guidelines, specifies several legal requirements allowing MAS to impose penalties on institutions that fail to comply. The new Technology Risk Management (TRM) guidelines and legal notice will apply to all IT systems used by financial institutions; unlike IBTRM, which is relevant only for systems used to provide online services.

The TRM guidelines require organizations to limit exposure to cyber and man-in-the-middle attacks, ensure data confidentiality and system integrity, all of which are either difficult or impossible to achieve without least privilege security on end user systems and servers. The document includes advice on implementing privilege management, including restricting the number of privileged user accounts, assigning access on a need-to-have basis and supervising 3rd-party contractors when working with privileged access to critical systems.

Employees with privileged access, such as system administrators, are also highlighted as being able to launch malicious attacks internally, and as such should be carefully vetted before being given privileged access to line-of-business systems. To help combat the potential threat from the inside, the TRM guidelines outline the never alone principle, where two people must be present to ensure that privileged actions are carried out according to policy.

Standard employees are more likely to put systems and sensitive data at risk if given administrative or power user rights on devices used to access data. MAS requires that privileges be assessed regularly to ensure that they are still assigned on a need-to-have basis. Auditing access attempts and monitoring log files is also recommended in the guidelines.

When Avecto software is installed on endpoints and servers, privileged access can be centrally managed by policies defined by business needs and access events can be monitored to satisfy the auditing recommendations of the TRM guidelines. Never alone functionality can be achieved using Privilege Guard’s challenge/response authentication or by requiring that a process be authorized by a second user before it can be run.

Avecto helps financial institutions meet the privileged management access requirements of the TRM guidelines and improve on the recommendations by providing application whitelisting and challenge/response authentication, so that organizations can be secure but still respond quickly to changing needs. Not only will a strategy to implement least privilege security help financial institutions comply with the new MAS guidelines but restricting privileged access is a requirement for all common financial industry mandates governing use of IT systems.

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