Veriato Blog

Bad Password Management by Privileged Insiders Puts the Organization at Risk

by Veriato | Feb 06, 2019

Ponemon’s 2019 State of Password and Authentication Security Behaviors Report highlights how inappropriate use of privileged password can give insiders the access they need.

Ultimately, the malicious insider needs one thing to perform an act that hurts the organization – access.  Generally, organizations concerned with insider threats need to only worry about the owners of user accounts with access to applications, and systems interacting with critical, sensitive, protected, or, otherwise valuable data.

But, according to Ponemon’s latest report (which includes responses from over 1,700 IT security practitioners) those with the highest levels of privileged access are using password and account practices that make insider threat activity more probable and negatively impactful.

Some of the eye-opening stats around privileged password use include:

  • 69 percent of IT pros admit to sharing passwords with their colleagues in the workplace to access accounts
  • 51% percent reuse an average of five passwords across their business and/or personal accounts
  • 55% percent of organizations do not use any form of two-factor authentication (2FA)

This is downright frightening; think about it – if IT pros are sharing passwords, not only can other users malicious act under the context of another user, but the opportunity exists to hijack more than just the one account shared (because of the password reuse). And, with no use 2FA, misuse of credentials is as simple as knowing the password. All this comes from the very same report in which 66% of organizations state that it is very important to protect passwords.

Organizations concerned about account sharing and misuse should look to employ a layered strategy that protects the use of privileged accounts. It includes the use of a privileged account password vault (to establish who can use which privileged accounts, limiting the ability to password share) and solutions providing Insider Threat Intelligence to monitor for inappropriate logons and unusual or threatening user activity.

The obvious misuse of privileged accounts (whether malicious or not) puts the organization at risk.  And without proper controls and monitoring, you’ll have no visibility into whether insider activity is taking place.  Consider putting measures in place to ensure privileged accounts are only used by their intended users, and for their intended purpose.


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