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Privileged Access Management (PAM) in the Cloud

Privileged access management (PAM) is almost universally used by companies big and small. And for good reason — PAM involves using authentication and authorization to protect sensitive data. Without PAM, enterprise information can quickly fall into the wrong hands. 

There are plenty of types of PAM, from basic password setups to complex multi-factor authentication with multiple levels of authorization. PAM tends to become more complicated when data requires higher levels of protection. The right PAM solution will minimize the risk of security breaches, and also ensure that the network isn’t too cumbersome for the right users to access. 

Even though PAM is a fixture among businesses across the globe, it’s worth noting that many of today’s businesses don’t believe their PAM solutions are secure. And there’s evidence to support their concern — compromises are always occurring, often because of outdated PAM technology, or an oversimplified approach to password management. 

With their existing PAM solutions, many enterprises today are woefully unprepared for the latest cybersecurity threats. In this article, we’ll explore how a cloud privileged access management solution has the power to take your enterprise security to the next level. 

Contents

Introduction to Cloud PAM 
Key Cloud PAM Terms 
The Difference Between PAM in the Cloud and PAM for the Cloud 
Benefits of PAM in the Cloud 
PAM Cloud Challenges & Risks 
Cloud Security Best Practices 
PrivX from SSH: Your Cloud PAM Solution

 SSH_Article Graphic-PAM in the Cloud

Introduction to Cloud PAM

Improving PAM requires an understanding of how to make privileged access more efficient and more accessible for authorized users. Additionally, the transfer to new PAM technologies should be smooth and secure. 

While the vast majority of today’s companies are using cloud-based applications, establishing a cloud privileged access management solution is less common. With IT teams devoted to cloud computing, it makes sense to implement a cloud PAM solution alongside other cloud migrations — especially in cases where cloud security offers the most efficient and secure solution. 

Cloud computing is often cited as one of the most scalable ways to manage a business. While on-premises infrastructure requires increased space as a business grows, cloud-based servers can scale up or down without physical maintenance. Elasticity and scalability aren’t the only advantages of a cloud PAM solution. Many of today’s cyberattacks involve machine-to-machine (M2M) cloud-based attackers. Cloud security is the most effective way to protect your data from cloud attacks, which are effective at breaking down traditional protections. 

When PAM is moved to the cloud (or a hybrid cloud solution), it has the potential to be a dynamic security solution. Instead of keeping passwords and credentials in an on-premises vault, cloud-based security allows you to protect your data with automatically rotated passwords, multi-factor authentication, and credentials that are adjusted based on user activity. 

Cloud-based security can keep track of who’s trying to access your information and adjust the access credentials accordingly. Cloud attacks are no match for a comprehensive, cloud PAM solution.

Key Cloud PAM Terms

Before we touch on the benefits of PAM in the cloud, let’s take a look at some key terms in the world of cloud and multi-cloud security. Discussing PAM in the cloud requires an understanding of the different services available. Key cloud PAM concepts include: 

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Software that is provided by third-party applications is known as SaaS. The benefits of SaaS include everything from flexibility and scalability, to predictable contracts and secure management. PAM in the cloud uses components of SaaS to deploy third-party credentials management. 
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): Infrastructure can be defined as on-premises devices or cloud-based services, like servers and storage. IaaS is an effective way to store credentials and information for cloud-based PAM, and to manage credentials with scalability. 
  • PAM-as-a-Service (PAMaaS): When PAM is deployed in the cloud, third-party PAM providers can bring all the benefits of SaaS and IaaS to your cloud privileged access management solution. PAMaaS providers, like SSH, can use hybrid cloud environments to ease the transition from legacy systems to a cloud-based PAMaaS approach. 

The Difference Between PAM in the Cloud and PAM for the Cloud

In the world of PAMaaS, there is a distinction between “PAM in the cloud” and “PAM for the cloud”. Before investing in a PAM solution, it’s important to understand how PAM in the cloud works, when compared with PAM for the cloud. 

PAM in the cloud aims to replace on-premises PAM infrastructure with cloud-based architecture. Implementing PAM in the cloud is often a component of PAMaaS, where PAM service providers can operate new security technologies using a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud service. 

In contrast, PAM for the cloud doesn’t necessarily refer to a cloud-based PAM solution. PAM for the cloud simply means the PAM solution is used for cloud-based applications. It’s quite possible that legacy PAM systems are being used for cloud-based applications, which can leave cloud data unprotected against cloud-based M2M attacks.

Benefits of PAM in the Cloud

Before PAM in the cloud, enterprises managed passwords and credentials with software — or even physical storage units. Keeping track of credentials was a full-time job, and basic functions like password rotation and privilege management were often subject to error and inefficiency. Even though PAM is one of the last major SaaS services to take advantage of cloud technology, the advantages of PAM in the cloud are making it a rapidly growing product. 

There are numerous financial benefits that make PAM in the cloud a cost-effective solution for privileged access management. PAMaaS providers can manage your privileged access technology with professional accuracy, reducing the workload for on-premises employees. Additionally, the lack of hardware investment in cloud computing means you can scale up or down as necessary — and only pay for the scope that you need. 

PAM in the cloud isn’t just lightweight and scalable — it’s also more secure than traditional PAM solutions. Because PAM in the cloud offers stronger defense against M2M attacks than legacy PAM technology, admins can save time, money, and hassle. PAM also allows you to automate your privilege management, by automatically rotating passwords regularly and establishing secure access tiers.

PAM Cloud Challenges & Risks 

Cloud migration comes with plenty of challenges and risks. When it’s time to migrate your PAM to the cloud, it’s crucial that passwords and access credentials remain secure during the move. To strengthen security outside the realm of access credentials, PAM admins need to make sure data is encrypted — both in transit and in storage. Encryption key management (EKM) can be combined with PAM to form a necessary layer of defense in case of an emergency. 

For businesses that are moving security management to the cloud, outdated security policies pose another major challenge. When access credentials and passwords are tailored to an on-premises environment, security policies aren’t designed to fit an environment with many remote users. To adjust access credentials to a cloud-specific environment, you will need to establish new policies to protect a cloud-driven enterprise — like two rounds of access credentials, one at the device level and one at the application level.

Cloud Security Best Practices

Effective PAMaaS providers can take these challenges in stride. With an effective understanding of best practices, PAM in the cloud allows organizations to increase both security and efficiency — saving money in the process. 

Every cloud PAM solution should be founded on the Principle of Least Privilege, which states that authenticated users should only be authorized to access what’s absolutely necessary. To avoid multiple layers of frustrating security measures, the right PAM in the cloud solution can offer Just-In-Time (JIT) access, which establishes access credentials based on dynamic authentication and user monitoring. 

Security isn’t the only thing to consider when implementing a cloud privileged access management solution — efficiency matters, too. A highly secure PAM setup makes access difficult defeats the purpose of privileged access management, which should facilitate appropriate, secure, but also user-friendly access. Automated PAM allows you to quickly assess risks, and to implement relevant security measures based on real-time data. Moreover, dynamic PAM tools can adjust based on perceived threats, and authenticate intelligently. 

Integrating PAM with data encryption technology is another great way to improve usability, and improve security protections in the process. By combining a cloud-based enterprise key management (EKM) system with cloud-based PAM, you can manage encryption keys, authenticate, and authorize users with a unified Zero Trust solution.

PrivX from SSH: Your Cloud PAM Solution

SSH offers high-security, high-usability PAM with PrivX — our cloud PAM solution. Available for hybrid or multi-cloud security, PrivX takes a Zero Trust approach to PAM. PrivX allows you to streamline authentication and authorization, and vault, rotate, and retire passwords automatically. 

The future of IT security is passwordless, and PrivX is ahead of the curve. By combining Zero Trust PAM with automated key management, PrivX creates ephemeral access certificates with a high degree of security. With these certificates, the right user can access the right information — for the right amount of time. The certificates cease to exist once access has been granted.

SSH offers unique editions of PrivX, like PrivX OT Edition and PrivX MSP Edition, to meet the unique demands of different industries. In an increasingly cloud-based world, a cloud PAM solution is your scalable and secure solution to privileged access management. Managing passwords and access credentials has never been safer or easier.  


Contact your local SSH expert for more info on PAM in the cloud.