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Privileged Access Management Definition & Meaning

Privileged access management is a strategy used by enterprises to secure privileged employee access to systems and confidential information. It differs from IAM—identity and access management—in its focus on only privileged access accounts. These are higher-level than ordinary user logins and accounts, which IAM manages. Privileged access refers to the specific rights of users in an organization to access important systems or accounts.

Privileged access management operates from the principle of least privilege, a business standard that limits account access to employees dependent on the minimum access they need to perform their regular duties. It also assumes, accurately, that hackers and unauthorized parties often achieve access control through privileged accounts. One study revealed that of the sampled companies that suffered a data breach, 74 percent noticed a connection between the breach and misused privileged access.

Managing privileged access, then, is paramount to maintaining corporate security and confidentiality. Passwords, high-level IT accounts, and encryption keys are just a few examples of privileged access items that should be protected. Multiple privileged access accounts exist in an organization. Just a few of them are listed here:

  • Privileged user accounts: accounts which only one particular user may access, such as an email, application, or device
  • Domain administrative accounts: accounts that allow authorized users to change and add users to company applications and systems
  • Application accounts: accounts that can access company applications and edit or connect them

Privileged access management (frequently abbreviated as PAM) is one of the main methods of protecting company systems and data. Strictly controlling user permissions promotes better accountability within the company. It's also becoming required more frequently, as governing bodies are beginning to place regulations for privileged access on companies. Complying with these data privacy regulations may mean that organizations are required to implement a privileged access management strategy. Strongly managing passwords and keeping accounts locked unless absolutely necessary are two primary elements of PAM. Implementing PAM software to manage and automate some of the security processes can also help organizations better monitor their privileged access.

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