Cloud computing platforms give businesses extensive computing power and resources without making huge investments in IT infrastructure. It frees capital that would be otherwise locked in the building and maintaining IT infrastructure to support business growth.
Like every IT system, cloud computing platforms also come with inherent security risks. However, you can manage these security risks by applying the principle of least privilege or the concept of limited privilege.
What Is the Concept of Limited Privilege?
The access control mechanism of the cloud environment is based on permissions. In cloud computing, the data location is unknown. The data could be distributed across multiple locations, and the cloud service provider offers a user-controllable access mechanism for general user and data protection.
The principle of least privilege is based on the concept where the user gets minimal permissions to perform daily tasks. For example, suppose your job function is account-related. In that case, the user will only get permission to access financial databases, and the user cannot intervene in other security settings of the cloud account.
For optimal security of your cloud environment, you need to implement the principle of limited privileges in the right way.
Perform a Privilege Audit
The first step in the implementation of limited privilege is to check all user accounts and their permissions. You also need to check processes and applications in your cloud systems and check the permissions they have. There are possibilities of hackers getting control of an application and using it as a tool to gain access to cloud resources and sensitive data.
Over time many user accounts end up having privileges they no longer need. The new privileges are added when user roles change, or the user is handed more responsibilities.
Privileges audits are like recertification programs where the admin determines whether the user account permissions comply with the principle of limited privileges policy enforced by your organization.
Make Sure All User Accounts Start With Limited Permissions
Sometimes admins are required to create a user account on an ad-hoc basis. Every organization should have a cloud policy where the user account should start with limited permissions. The admin should analyze the job function and the actions that the user needs to perform.
Based on the analysis, the admin should allocate minimal permissions to the newly created user. If the user needs higher privileges, the admin should offer temporary access to privileged services.
Separation of Privileges
The cloud access policy should have different types of accounts based on the privileges they have. The standard accounts should have limited permissions. The higher system-level functions may have additional privileges, but the permissions should be related to their job functions.
In any circumstances, no user account can have more than the necessary privileges. Such a rule will also apply to admin accounts. The admin accounts should not have unrestricted access to cloud functions.
Implement Just-In-Time Privileges
In many cases, standard user accounts need higher privileges to complete their work. For example, the marketing manager may need sales data to analyze the success of a recently organized marketing campaign and create a report. In such a scenario, admins can give limited access to data by implementing a just-in-time privilege policy.
The extended permissions could be granted on a one-time-use basis. The admin can set the time when the marketing manager can access the data, like during office working hours and from devices installed in office premises.
Trace Individual Actions
The cloud access policy should allow automatic auditing of usernames, passwords, and monitoring. The admin should be able to check whether users are following the company’s policies while creating passwords. Suppose any user is performing unwanted actions with username or passwords. In that case, the systems should generate an alert, and the admin should be able to trace the user actions that expose cloud accounts to external risks.
Make Least Privileges a Regular Thing
The implementation of the principle of limited permissions should not be a one-time thing or a yearly thing. It should be a regular thing in your cloud management policies. The privileges auditing should be done regularly. There are cases where old accounts accumulate privileges over time, and the principle of limited permissions and their protection does not apply.
You need to audit the privileges of accounts from time to time to ensure no account has more than necessary privileges.
To sum up, cloud security management is a complex thing. The principle of limited privileges can be your first line of defense against unauthorized access. The concept of limited privilege can be applied to every cloud computing component like individuals, devices, networks, services, programs, and processes to make your cloud environment more secure and stable.