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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.

The Swiss Cheese Model

Posted December 20, 2010    Peter McCalister

We’ve heard a lot of stories from administrators on how they tried implementing a least privileged model without a solution like PowerBroker Desktops.
swiss cheese
Some folks used scripts to grant/remove administrator rights to the user; others used native settings like Group Policy Files system and Registry ACL policies. I am not speaking badly of these admins and admittedly, I have taken similar steps myself in the past; and in moderation these do have a place. The problem with utilizing this approach to completely address Least Privilege or Least-Privileged User Accounts (LUA) is that you get into what we refer to as, ‘The Swiss Cheese Model’. You inherently open up a number of security holes in your enterprise, not to mention risk-breaking compatibility with applications, and create an incredible amount of work maintaining these policies and transferring this knowledge to other administrators. Below is an excerpt taking from a Microsoft KB on this:

Extensive permission changes that are propagated throughout the registry and file system cannot be undone. New folders, such as user profile folders that were not present at the original installation of the operating system, may be affected. Therefore, if you remove a Group Policy setting that performs ACL changes, or you apply the system defaults, you cannot roll back the original ACLs.

Changes to the ACL in the %SystemDrive% folder may cause the following scenarios:

  • The Recycle Bin no longer functions as designed, and files cannot be recovered.
  • A reduction of security that lets a non-administrator view the contents of the administrator’s Recycle Bin.
  • The failure of user profiles to function as expected.
  • A reduction of security that provides interactive users with read access to some or to all user profiles on the system.
  • Performance problems when many ACL edits are loaded into a Group Policy object that includes long logon times or repeated restarts of the target system.
  • Performance problems, including system slowdowns, every 16 hours or so as Group Policy settings are reapplied.
  • Application compatibility problems or application crashes.

In contrast, using BeyondTrust PowerBroker Desktops (FKA Privilege Manager) to facilitate a Least Privileged environment has been proven time and time again to be an effective, easy to use and maintain solution to the issues that arise when going to this type of environment. Using this proven solution has also been the only realistic way to satisfy certain audit requirements that prevent users from running with Administrative Privileges with many of our customers.

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Additional articles

CyberResiliency

6 things I like about Gartner’s Cyber Resiliency Strategy

Posted August 27, 2015    Nigel Hedges

There were 6 key principles, or recommendations, that Gartner suggested were important drivers towards a great cyber resiliency posture. I commented more than once during the conference that many of these things were not new. They are all important recommendations that are best when placed together and given to senior management and the board – a critical element of organisations that desperately need to “get it”.

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Why Customers Choose PowerBroker: Flexible Deployment Options

Posted August 26, 2015    Scott Lang

BeyondTrust commissioned a study of our customer base in early 2015 to determine how we are different from other alternatives in the market. What we learned was that there were six key differentiators that separate BeyondTrust from other solution providers in the market. We call it the PowerBroker difference,

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Mac-Security-Enterprise

On Demand Webinar: Security Risk of Mac OS X in the Enterprise

Posted August 20, 2015    BeyondTrust Software

In the last several years, Mac administrators have come to realize that they may be just as vulnerable to exploits and malware as most other operating systems. New malware and adware is released all the time, and there have been serious vulnerabilities patched by Apple in the past several years, some of which may afford attackers full control of your systems.

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