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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.

Sharing Isn’t Always Caring Without Least Privilege

Posted May 9, 2011    Peter McCalister

In kindergarten, we all learned an important lesson: how to share. Some people, as they grew up, seem to have taken this concept a little too far, with no real consideration for possible consequences. I’m not trying to undermine the importance of sharing as a general rule, but let’s just take a quick look at how sharing has “helped” in the recent past.

Vodafone. We’ve talked about it before, but it’s the perfect example of how sharing isn’t always the way to go. They experienced a breach early this year that affected private customer data. This information was leaked as a result of the misuse of a password. More than likely the damage that password caused was a result of it being sold or given to someone else. The consequences of this breach were severe: fines to be paid, fired employees, and a whole unnecessary mess to be cleaned up. All because someone was loose with their password.

Every user in every organization must have their own credentials. Every time. Sure, it can be easier to let someone user your password. Yes, they would probably end up with privileged access if they had called the help desk anyway. But at what cost does sharing become acceptable? Organizations need not risk sensitive information for laziness.

Companies also need to have the ability to track and log the use of those passwords. Granular details about when someone logged in, the keystrokes they performed, and the information they accessed is the key to correct governance, as well as fast response time if a breach were to occur. Without a system in place to ensure the proper people are using their passwords appropriately, all of your efforts will have been for not.

I think it’s safe to say that sharing is not always a benefit. Should we take it too far and stop teaching children to share? No. Should we stop teaching adults with the keys to their enterprises’ kingdom to share? Absolutely.

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