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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

Hard Versus Soft Cost Of Privilege Misuse

Posted December 19, 2011    Peter McCalister

All costs aren’t completely obvious. Simply stated, the principle of least privilege means that a user must run with the least amount of privilege for the least being performed. And what does this mean for you?

It means you should look closely at eliminating administrator rights from users who don’t absolutely need them, and elevate privileges for users who require them. Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios that will better paint this picture and its relevance to hard versus soft costs:

Scenario A: A user in your company needs to install an application, and your IT department is slammed (as usual) and won’t be able to help for several hours. Now that user can’t install the application necessary for their job function, which results in loss of work and overall production.

Scenario B: A user in your company is operating with full administrator rights, and is unfortunately a little too cavalier in their download habits. Because they are operating with admin rights, malware hijacks their computer and enters your database. Now your IT department has to get involved to fix and debug your system, which is both expensive and time-consuming.

Both situations color the importance of least privilege and further emphasize how important it is to find the right amount of privilege for all end users. Scenario A is of course the soft cost example, while Scenario B is the hard cost example. Both can have measurable negative impact to your organization if you are looking out for signs of these scenarios and implemented vehicles for accurate impact assessment. As we move into 2012 it will be important for you to learn to spot both of these scenarios throughout your organization in order to protect against privilege misuse as well as the associated costs. If you’d like help then contact us.

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