Beyond passwords: how human behavior is the next step for security

Published on 17 November 2017

Privileged users come with their own particular set of security challenges. The more access they have to a network, the greater the risk they could compromise data and disclosing confidential information. You just need to think back to Wikileaks or the Edward Snowden NSA leaks to grasp the extent of the damage that can be done when a privileged access user goes rogue.

But it’s not just privileged users within an organization that pose a threat. Contractors, suppliers and any third-party user that needs access to critical infrastructure all represent a significant risk. Not to mention the cybercriminals that are a constant danger if defenses aren’t up to scratch.

With a powerful set of credentials, anyone with privileged user access can bypass security controls and turn off monitoring systems – essentially breaching your defenses while going undetected. Plus, it only takes one account to be compromised for things to cascade into an enterprise-wide disaster.

Passwords just aren’t enough

To protect your network, a holistic approach to security is required. This means going beyond passwords and integrating more modern forms of security, such as contextual identity solutions.

Whereas basic privileged access monitoring often gives you an overview of a user’s actions, alerting you to anything that deviates from typical behavioral patterns – such as multiple log in attempts – contextual monitoring provides something entirely different: it can give context to a user’s actions and intent.

Contextual monitoring tools do this by taking into account a user’s device, IP address, time of access and previous interactions to understand if the actions a user is taking are in line with standard behavior. And by using machine learning algorithms, they can help security teams to quickly identify compromised accounts or discover unauthorized account sharing.

Next generation security

Significantly, today’s advanced security tools can take this type of acute monitoring one step further. By monitoring, analyzing and understanding more nuanced user behavior, they give organizations an even greater chance of detecting and preventing security breaches, without having to disrupt the user experience. It’s all about combining the three pillars of authentication into one step.

Two factor authentication in the form of device verification and passwords are already a mainstay for many systems. In-depth behavioral analytics takes this even further by telling a system who the user is from a biological standpoint.

It’s all about understanding unique human movements, such as the way a user types on a keyboard, moves a mouse or holds a device. Even the way they hold a stylus or walks with a device. This kind of detailed biometric analysis can help security teams distinguish between what is usual behavior and what isn’t, as well as what is human and automated activity, allowing them to implement the best course of action – whether that’s session termination or continued monitoring. All without disrupting normal privileged user workflows.

Of course, tracking micro-movements isn’t a failsafe form of defense. Because whether it’s malicious or accidental, insider actions can still cause breaches. But any added security measures that can strengthen defenses will put businesses in a better security position than simply relying on log management alone.

The way the tech landscape is evolving suggests that we’re moving towards a complex IT world in which everyone and everything is connected. To truly stay secure in this environment, firewalls and passwords simply won’t cut it anymore. Behavior is the new battleground.

Download our free whitepaper to learn more about Privileged Access Management today and how, in the event of an incident, can help you respond quickly and effectively.

by Balabit

Balabit, a One Identity business, is a leading provider of Privileged Access Management (PAM) and Log Management solutions. Founded in 2000, Balabit has a proven track record of helping businesses reduce the risk of data breaches associated with privileged accounts.

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“The [Balabit] solution’s strongest points are the privileged session management, recording and search, and applying policy filters to apps and commands typed by administrators on monitored sessions.”

– The Forrester Wave, Privileged Identity Management, Q3 2016, by Andras Cser