What is Critical Access Management?

Not all access is created equal. The access needed to login to an email account isn’t the same as the access needed to operate an energy provider’s electric grid. One of these types of access is more critical than the other and needs the security to go with it.

That’s what critical access management is all about—protecting valuable company assets by securing the access points that lead to them.

SecureLink’s goal has always been to protect your critical systems and data, and with the emergence of critical access management, we’re able to take a comprehensive approach to security by securing all access points. Critical access management is the practice of minimizing the risk and threats associated with a company’s highly valued assets, like networks, systems, infrastructure, data, and information. This is accomplished first by identifying the access points and assets that are “critical” and high risk, then through implementing the three pillars of critical access management: access governance, access control, and access monitoring.

Identifying Critical Access

How do you know which access is critical and which access isn’t critical (or just routine, like logging into your email)? Take a look at these three aspects of access—if any of two of these are considered “high risk,” the access is critical.

Identity (the user): If a user who needs access is considered “high risk” that type of access is categorized as critical. To determine if a user is high risk, you need to look at their identity traits. What do you know about them? Are they an employee? Have they followed access policy rules in the past, or have they broken access rules and exhibited poor behavior? Are they a third party rep? Are you able to track and control their access, or does their access fall outside of your systems?

Asset: Assets are the items owned by an organization—a building, a room, a machine, a software program, a server, a database, or data. It’s what you’re trying to protect. You can tell if an asset is considered high risk based on what would happen if it were misused in any way. For example, if an email account is breached, there’s minimal damage; email access is not high risk. But if the server of a software provider was breached, there are consequences that affect not only the company, but the hundreds or thousands of customers that rely on the server for daily operations.

Privileges: Privileges are the rights/permissions needed to access an asset. You can categorize access as critical if the privileges needed for the access are high. This means you not only need a password, but you also need a high level of clearance and authentication to access the asset.

The Three Pillars of Critical Access Management

After identifying the critical access points within your organization, you can start to implement the three pillars of access management. The attributes of these three pillars work together to fully secure access and create a comprehensive security strategy.

Access governance consists of the systems and processes that ensure access policy is being followed as closely as possible. Access policies are rules set by a company that state who should have access to what, and what privileges are needed to access an asset. Access governance works best when applying role-based access control—access distributed based on job responsibility—and the principle of least privilege—giving the minimum amount of access needed to do a job and nothing more.

Access control is the mechanism(s) used to reduce risk, increase visibility, and increase friction in granting access. When access controls like Zero Trust Network Access and fine-grained access controls are established, it adds friction to a user’s movement through a network or system, and helps minimize their exposure and lateral movement (and thus the amount of damage they could possibly cause).

Access monitoring is the observation and analysis of a user’s behavior while they’re accessing an asset. This is accomplished through proactive observation, which is the real-time monitoring of a user’s behavior while in a session, or reactive observation which includes analyzing or investigating a user’s session for a specific reason.

How is Critical Access Management Different from What I Have?

As one of our customers, you’ve been reaping the benefits of critical access management ever since your subscription started. From the beginning, our mission has been to secure access points and protect critical assets. Each of the SecureLink productsEnterprise Access, Access Intelligence, Privacy Monitor, and Customer Connect—implement components of the critical access management pillars (see image below). The product you use deploys critical access management strategies, whether that’s Zero Trust Network Access, user access reviews, or access monitoring. Every update our team makes to the software further enhances the controls around privacy and security, which means with each new update, you can be confident that your company is even better protected from a data breach.

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