Request demo

What is Just-in-Time Access?


New call-to-action

Just-in-Time Access is all about accessing what you need when you need it. Instead of having constant access, users get authorization only for what they need at that moment. This method helps in managing security efficiently. Organizations benefit from this approach in handling security and access control.

Just-in-Time Access Provisioning

Just-in-Time (JIT) access provisioning grants a user temporary, on-demand (privileged) access to IT. It’s a form of identity access management or privileged access management that is often meant to address scenarios in which a user - who may not typically need to use certain applications or services - can receive timely access to those resources when they need it, but only for a short period of time. 

Just-in-Time access provisioning can also be viewed as an alternative to the concept of standing privileges, in which a user has broad, “always-on” access resources.

In contrast, Just-in-Time access ensures that all access is alway temporary and granted just at the time of making the connection to the target.

In most cases, access is also limited per role. This is way it also follows the principle of least privileged (POLP) which is required by many policies and regulations.

The idea of no one having permanent authorization or permanent access to critical infrastructures has gained more momentum. Just-in-Time access allows companies to make all access temporary by default and ensure the validity of each user, connection, role and the level of privileges at the time of establishing the connection repeatedly.

This basically eliminates implicit trust from the equation. which is also one of the core philosophies of the Zero Trust framework where the operating model is 'never trust, always verify'.

Key features of Just-in-Time Access

Temporary access

JIT access is granted only for a specific period. This means users request access when they need it and lose it once the task is done. By limiting the time frame, you reduce the window of opportunity for unauthorized access. This approach minimizes security risks associated with prolonged permissions.

Reduced attack surface

Limiting access to necessary periods reduces potential points of entry for attackers. When you restrict who can enter your system and when, you effectively reduce the attack surface. Minimizing these points strengthens your overall security posture, providing better protection against threats.

Granular control

JIT allows defining specific permissions for each user. With this level of detail, you achieve more precise management over who gets what kind of access. Implementing such granular control ensures that only those with appropriate roles can reach sensitive areas or data within your system.

Automated workflows

Automation plays a crucial role in JIT by granting and revoking access without manual intervention. These automated workflows enhance efficiency and reliability by streamlining processes through predefined rules and conditions. Tasks like privilege elevation become seamless, reducing human error while maintaining security standards.

Enhanced security

Combining temporary access, reduced attack surface, granular control, and automation leads to enhanced security overall. Each feature contributes uniquely but collectively creates robust defenses against unauthorized activities or breaches.

Benefits of Just-in-Time Access

Reduces the attack surface

Limiting the duration of access is crucial for security. By allowing users to access systems only when needed, JIT significantly reduces the attack surface. This means fewer opportunities for unauthorized users to exploit vulnerabilities.

For example, if an employee needs temporary access to a database, granting it just for that period minimizes potential security risks. This approach strengthens your overall security posture, making it harder for attackers to find entry points.

Simplifies access workflow

Automated JIT processes make managing user permissions easier. Instead of manually adjusting settings each time someone needs access, automation handles these tasks efficiently.

Integrating JIT into existing workflows is straightforward and helps in streamlining operations. The use of automation not only saves time but also reduces errors associated with manual processes, thereby simplifying the entire access workflow.

Enhances compliance and auditing

Meeting regulatory requirements can be challenging without proper tools in place. JIT access aids in compliance by ensuring that permissions are granted only when necessary and are logged meticulously.

Temporary access logs simplify auditing processes as they provide clear records of who accessed what and when. This makes it easier for organizations to meet their compliance requirements while maintaining high standards.

Defines third-party access

Managing third-party vendors or contractors can be complex due to varying levels of required system interaction. With JIT, you grant third-party users specific system rights only during their work periods—no more standing permissions lingering indefinitely for third-party access. For instance, API brokers could allow controlled data exchanges between different platforms safely.

Allows automated system tasks

JIT isn't limited only to human interactions; automated systems benefit too. Scheduled maintenance routines or updates on virtual machines often require elevated privileges for temporary automated system tasks. This ensures that configurations run smoothly without constant oversight from administrators.

Eases management of privileged accounts

Handling privileged accounts presents its own set of challenges – misuse poses significant threats across network management of privileged accounts. However, utilizing PAM solutions alongside privilege elevation methods simplifies this process greatly; elevated accesses become situational rather than permanent fixtures within IT infrastructures.

How is Just-in-Time Access Delivered?

Broker and remove access

Just-in-Time (JIT) access often involves brokering access through a centralized system. This approach allows security teams to manage who can request access and when. By using a centralized system, organizations can streamline the process of granting permissions while maintaining control over sensitive data.

Once the required period ends, mechanisms are in place to automatically remove access. This reduces security risks by ensuring that no one retains unnecessary privileges longer than needed. The automated removal process helps maintain a strong security posture, making it harder for unauthorized users to exploit any potential vulnerabilities.

Temporary elevation

Another key method for delivering JIT access is temporary elevation of user privileges. Users receive elevated permissions only for specific tasks or periods, allowing them to perform necessary actions without permanent elevated status.

This approach ensures that privileged accounts are not exposed more than necessary, reducing opportunities for misuse or attacks. For example, if an admin needs higher-level permissions on an Azure virtual machine, they get those rights temporarily and lose them once their task is complete.

Ephemeral certificates

One of the most effective ways to deliver Just-in-Time access to users is to use ephemeral certificates.

Ephemeral certificates are types of limited access security tokens that are

  • automatically created on-demand at the time of making the connection

  • configured to contain all the secrets (passwords, ssh keys) needed to establish the session

  • automatically expire after establishing the connection, leaving no secrets behind

  • and typically require no agents or configurations on the client or the server, keeping the environment immutable.

The access is also called passwordless, keyless or ‘credential-less’, since on establishing the connection the user does not handle or see access credentials at all. Find more information about ephemeral certificates here.

JIT Access vs. JIT Provisioning

Just-in-Time (JIT) Access and Just-in-Time (JIT) Provisioning are both strategies aimed at improving security and efficiency, but they serve different purposes.

JIT Provisioning primarily focuses on the automated creation of user accounts or resources when needed. For example, in cloud environments like Azure or AWS, users can request temporary access to specific resources. This approach ensures that only necessary accounts are created and maintained for a limited time.

On the other hand, JIT Access is about granting permissions to existing accounts for a short period. It doesn't create new user profiles but instead provides temporary elevated access to perform certain tasks without giving permanent rights.

Comparing these two methods reveals distinct use cases:

  • JIT Provisioning: Best suited for scenarios where new resource instances need to be spun up quickly.

  • JIT Access: Ideal for situations requiring temporary permission elevation within existing systems.

The key differences lie in their application scope:

  • Provisioning deals with creating resources.

  • Access handles permission management within current setups.

Both methods enhance security by limiting exposure times but cater differently based on operational needs.

Just-in-Time Access Solutions

SSH.COM has developed a comprehensive set of Just-in-Time Zero Trust solutions to mitigate the risk of managing digital keys, privileged passwords, and other secrets (like API tokens or certificates) by greatly reducing their numbers in IT infrastructures. Learn more about the SSH's Zero Trust and Just-in-time (JIT) solutions here.

Get started with Just-in-Time Access Solutions

SSH.COM has developed a comprehensive set of Just-in-Time Zero Trust solutions to mitigate the risk of managing digital keys, privileged passwords, and other secrets (like API tokens or certificates) by greatly reducing their numbers in IT infrastructures. Learn more about the SSH's Zero Trust and Just-in-time (JIT) solutions here.


How does Just-in-Time (JIT) Access improve security in an organization?

Just-in-Time Access improves security by limiting the time frame during which user credentials are valid, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and potential security breaches. This targeted access control helps organizations minimize their attack surface by granting rights only when necessary.

How does JIT access enhance security for organizations using cloud services?

For organizations using cloud services, JIT access enhances security by ensuring that permissions are only granted for specific tasks and only for the duration those tasks are being performed. This approach limits potential exposure to security risks associated with standing permissions in cloud environments.

How can organizations request access to JIT-enabled resources in Azure?

Organizations can request access to JIT-enabled resources in Azure by using Azure's built-in security controls, such as Azure Security Center. Users submit access requests through the Azure portal, and these requests must be approved according to the organization’s policy. This process is often automated and can be fine-tuned using custom policies and roles to fit organizational needs.


Just-In-Time ZT Solution Portfolio