Best Practices for Implementing Least Privilege in Your Organization

In today’s digital age, data privacy and protection are top concerns that organizations must constantly uphold to prevent data breaches that can cause major financial and reputational losses. To ensure this, implementing strict security measures is a must to maintain your operations while detecting and eliminating potential threats. One of the most common security strategies employed today is the principle of least privilege (POLP), which you can apply to each layer of your systems and infrastructure.

The idea behind the least privilege principle is to restrict the access of users, services, and applications and only permit the bare minimum requirements needed for them to function. Regardless of how trustworthy or capable a user may be, the principle entails that you only grant them the minimum rights they need to do their work. This strategy helps contain risks more effectively and prevents them from escalating.

To help you maximize the benefits of your POLP strategy, here are some of the best practices to implement in your organization. 

Do a Privilege Audit

Start by conducting a privilege audit to determine the permissions and privileges needed by each user to perform their roles. In most cases, non-IT users are granted a standard account to reinforce a least privilege environment in the organization. Typically, it is best to default all users to a standard account, then add more specific privileges as you see fit. Conducting regular audits is important to ensure you are applying the necessary restrictions for each user.

Track Individual Actions

When employing POLP, tracking individual actions will help you manage access levels and conduct periodic audits. This entails monitoring all logins and logouts within the system and each account’s User ID and password. You can complement your POLP efforts with secure password management software and complex authentication mechanisms to enforce tighter security.

Group Users

Larger organizations can have hundreds to thousands of employees, making it nearly impossible to implement the least privilege principle. To make it easier to manage your strategy, you can group users based on their jobs and responsibilities to be granted the same privileges. For example, you can group the whole marketing department to grant equal privileges for software, technologies, and applications used in advertising campaigns. This way, you need not go through each marketing employee to provide access rights.

Revoke Access During Offboarding

If an employee resigns from the organization, you have to make sure you revoke their access and privileges immediately. The best practice would be to have the employee go through the IT department after the offboarding procedure. This way, your IT team can remove their access rights as soon as they leave the organization. Many companies often overlook this process and potentially run into problems since users still have certain permissions despite no longer working in the organization.

Communicate Your Strategy

If you plan to implement the POLP technique in your organization, it is important to communicate this strategy to all your employees. Doing so can help them understand the security benefits of using the strategy and make them less resistant to the changes in their privileges. Failure to communicate your intentions can easily cause misunderstanding and potential conflict within the organization, which may cause people to find a way around their restricted access. 

Overall, the POLP technique allows you to restrict user access to only what is necessary to avoid any abuse of power or major breaches that can threaten the whole organization. Implementing it is not the easiest to do, especially since you have to audit and monitor accounts regularly. However, the benefits will be worth the efforts as you can reduce the probability of threats and risks.