The cloud system offers numerous advantages to businesses like flexibility, scalability, and low-cost. However, there are several risks associated with a cloud environment. According to Cloud 2020 Misconfigurations report, cloud misconfigurations cost businesses approximately $5 trillion in 2018 and 2019.
The above figures shouldn’t dampen your spirit or trust in the Cloud platform. The least privilege principles (POLP) can avert most risks associated with cloud misconfigurations and provide a secure cloud environment to your business apps and processes. To make things easy for you, let’s discuss POLP in detail.
Understanding the Principle of Minimum Privileges
Information security is a multi-faceted discipline and often complex. SaaS-based cloud systems can have thousands of configurations and there is a possibility you overlook some important configurations that lead to a security risk.
The principle of minimal privileges is based on the idea that a user needs to minimum access rights needed to perform daily tasks. For example, if an employee is assigned the task of processing payroll checks, the user should have access to specific functions of the payroll system and not have access to the employee database. This limited right policy prevents users from performing functions they are not authorized to do which might put the whole business system at risk.
Now that you know what least privilege principles are all about, let’s understand its significance/benefits in SaaS-based cloud systems.
Creates a Secure Environment With Fewer Liabilities
Consider a scenario where a standard user makes changes to the settings of the critical area of the network. It could lead to problematic instabilities and at worst give hackers easy access to the cloud environment. POLP reduces the number of identities that have excessive permissions. The POLP model states even the administrator or the superuser should not have broad rights over the systems they manage. The POLP policy restricts admin rights to few user accounts while most end-users accounts have minimal access rights for their daily tasks. This reduces the probability of high-risk errors.
According to security experts, the POLP access policy reduces the attack surfaces, leaves very few target areas to malicious users, reduces security risks, and helps in delivering healthy network performance.
Protection Against Common Attacks
Cloud applications having unrestricted privileges are attractive targets for attackers. For example, a common web application attack like SQL injection inserts malicious instructions in SQL statements. When hackers are successful in their attack, they can gain entry into the system and grant themselves higher access rights to get control of critical systems.
If the organization follows POLP best practices, such an attack would be halted midway and the hacker would not be able to access critical network systems. In the SQL injection attack, the hacker would only know about the privileges assigned to a web application and the attack cannot be escalated to a higher level.
Superior Data Security
Eliminating perimeter attacks is not the only objective of a data security system. It should also consider the internal risks in the form of users operating with malicious intent. Businesses are often targets of proprietary data thefts and leaks that cost them millions of dollars. Hence, organizations need a system that can monitor and control the activity of the authorized users
The least privilege policy limits the number of identities with access to confidential information. This reduces the risk of privilege elevations and enhances overall data security. If a certain user needs elevated permissions for additional job functions, the access management process can assign additional permissions for a limited time frame. The POLP provides granular control over access rights and also helps track individual activity.
Limited Malware Propagation
The malware is designed to gain entry into the system and exploit accounts that offer unlimited access and control to the systems. When an organization implements the policy of minimal privileges, it works to limit malware propagation and limits its effect to a limited area to which it has access. The reason is the malware cannot gain control of the critical system through identities as they have limited access rights. By getting control of a specific identity, it can only perform limited functions due to limited access rights.
Improved Audit Readiness
If there is any missing information or data, an audit becomes a necessity. Organizations that apply POLP show improved audit readiness as auditors can check the processes, programs, and user accounts used for every transaction. The POLP ensures every user only has the permissions required to perform their jobs. This limited user activity leaves less room for errors and frauds.
To sum up, the POLP has played an important role in enhancing the security of SaaS-based cloud systems. It has ensured business has complete control over whom and how the cloud systems are used.