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So I've removed admin rights… what now?

Jonathan Clarke

The removal of admin rights is one of the most effective ways for organizations to improve the security of their data. It ensures that any successful attack on a user's account will not result in the ability of hackers to make widespread system changes or to install malicious software.

However, once user admin rights have been restricted, what is the next step to improving data security further? Well, a number of risks still remain should an attacker breach your systems, but these too can be limited by focusing on a few simple changes to your security best practice.

Why an environment of least privilege is more secure

Implementing a restriction on the number of individuals who hold admin rights has been shown in our latest Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report 2017 to eliminate up to 80 per cent of all vulnerabilities in commonly-used applications like Excel, Word, Publisher and PowerPoint, among others.

While this represents a significant boost to data security, businesses should now be going further in their efforts. By adopting a default setup of individual accounts that have the least level of privilege to be able to carry out their role, this ensures a range of benefits, including:

  • A minimized attack surface: Attackers will only be able to access areas of a business pertinent to that user's role. The volume and type of information they are able to access is therefore restricted.
  • Reduction in malware propagation risk: As above, embedded malware will only be able to infect a small area of a network should an account become compromised. In this way, the spread of attacker influence can be greatly reduced.
  • Increased network stability: Adverse changes can be more swiftly identified and more easily resolved when the scope of systems/files affected is reduced.
  • Reduced insider threat: As individual users only have access to systems and information relevant to their role, an environment of least privilege offers enhanced protection in the case of disgruntled insiders who intend to cause harm.

The advantages of least privilege adoption are seen most prominently when organizations are faced with a successful assault on their systems. In cases where attackers are able to breach a company's outer defenses, the level of access they will be granted on the inside is significantly reduced.

 

Defendpoint's Trusted Application Protection (TAP) prevents high-risk applications from launching unknown malware.

 

Application control adds additional security

Further to the introduction of a least privilege framework for all users, organizations that are hoping to better defend their business against malicious cyber assault should be actively introducing another key measure - application control.

This practice ensures unauthorized applications will not be able to execute in a way that places data security at risk. It is managed through a process of whitelisting and blacklisting all applications, ensuring administrators have full control and oversight of how their IT systems operate. The benefits of application control include being able to:

  • Identify and control applications with your network: Provides a clear and complete picture of all active and inactive applications and systems.
  • Prevent unauthorized execution: Only authorized applications can execute. All executions that are not on an approved whitelist are automatically halted.
  • Improve network stability: By limiting the extent to which changes can be made, administrators can promote greater stability and limit or rollback adverse changes more easily.
  • Protection against known exploits: Vulnerabilities in unpatched operating systems and third-party applications can be reduced.
  • Better understand data traffic: Companies operating application control can more easily monitor the flow of data within their systems, providing details on users’ access requirements and activities.

Application control ensures organizations are more effectively able to view and manage the interconnection of applications and systems, while providing oversight on the transfer of data and reducing their exposure to risk.

Ultimately, organizations that are committed to developing stronger safeguards against cyber threats should be implementing these measures to shore up their defenses.

Avecto Defendpoint's best-in-class privilege management and application control makes admin rights removal simple and scalable across desktops and servers to ensure compliance, security and efficiency.