Principle of Least Privilege

What Is Principle of Least Privilege?

The Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP) is a cybersecurity concept that ensures a user or other entity only has access to the data and applications necessary to complete their role or tasks. Organizations that hire over-privileged users are more likely to suffer a data breach, and should a threat actor gain illegal access to a user’s account; they can move around more freely to steal sensitive data. 

Principle of Least Privilege Account Types

User Accounts

One example is when an employee is granted access to a specific database to allow them to enter new records. If this user clicks a link in a phishing email, the attacker will not have root access to the entire system. 

MySQL Accounts

Least Privilege can also be applied to a MySQL setup, with some accounts only granted sorting privileges. This means that if an attacker gains unauthorized access to such an account, they cannot delete a database or manipulate its contents.

Privilege Creep

Privilege Creep is when a user accrues unnecessary permissions over time. This could occur when an employee changes roles within an organization, retaining their previous privileges while being granted new ones. This can result in user profiles that present a significant risk to cybersecurity. 

How to Implement Principle of Least Privilege

When implementing a PoLP strategy, many best practices should be adhered to: 

1. Conduct a thorough audit to document network privileges, including those granted to employee user accounts, outside contractors, third-party vendors, and any non-human access. This should cover both on-site users and remote users.

2. Set Least Privilege as default for all new accounts, granting only minimum access and permissions to allow employees to perform their job. 

3. Separate privileged administrative accounts from standard user accounts and isolate privileged user sessions. Any higher-level system functions should also be granted at the minimum level required. 

4. Introduce role-based access control with time-limited privileges to avoid any disruption to workflows. 

5. Replace any hard-coded credentials with one-time-use credentials.

6. Monitor and analyze privileged access and create a log of authentications and authorizations across the network. This will ensure individual actions can be traced. 

7. Review privileges regularly, revoke access when needed, and close inactive accounts. 

Principle of Least Privilege vs. Zero Trust

Although the end goal is similar, PoLP and Zero Trust work differently to protect an organization. PoLP limits access control, whereas Zero Trust is focused on authorization. Zero Trust can be considered a more comprehensive strategy, as it considers who is requesting access, what they are trying to access, and the risk level if access is granted.
Zero Trust Security should be the goal of every security team. The methodology is ready to address the flexibility and challenges of modern hybrid work. Assessing and implementing Zero Trust entails an expert technology partner, which is why organizations choose BlackBerry® Cybersecurity powered by Cylance® AI to protect their people, data, and networks.