The Principle of Least Privilege (POLP), sometimes known as the principle of least authority (POLA), or principle of minimal privilege (POMP) is a concept that indicates that any user, process, or program should have only the most necessary privileges that are required to perform critical functions. For instance, a copy-editor that must perform a textual check on a website should not have administrative privileges that could negatively affect the whole site. To know more about the concept or to apply it in your business/office, visit https://sonraisecurity.com/education/principle-least-privilege/.
The principle of least privilege is a way to ensure overall security within any system. However, this alone does not adequately describe how beneficial this principle is. Here are six main benefits:
1. There Are Fewer Liabilities Within the Environment
Not every user who accesses the system is evil and seeking to harm the network or misuse any data present in the system. However, mistakes do occur. While some errors can be minor, there is still the potential that any minor error can either lead to something higher-risk or act as a drain on the time and resources used to correct whatever discrepancy might have occurred.
Thus, the principle of least privilege dramatically reduces the overall amount of liabilities present within the environment. Only by reducing the number of users with access to information, or the ability to manipulate the system, there are fewer liabilities within the environment.
2. Better Control and Monitoring of Activity
There is an abundance of services and platforms that will help monitor user activity within the system. Also, a host of services will help alert admins to any potential anomaly that might occur within the system itself. However, even the most advanced measures can only be retroactive when it comes to security or still take time and energy to monitor user activity.
The principle of least privilege allows for ease of control and monitoring by limiting the number of users. This ensures that lower-end users cannot do any damage so that higher-end users are the ones that will be focused on. This is especially imperative with enterprises that have many employees or those with access to the system.
3. Protection Against Common Attacks
As mentioned previously, the principle of least privilege limits the number of users that have higher-end privileges. As such, there is an overall lower possibility that some of the most common attacks will be executed.
One of the most common attacks is SQL injections. Essentially, this is a common web attack in which malicious instructions are inserted into SQL statements. Hackers can then elevate privileges and have access to various critical systems. The principle of least privilege prevents this from happening in the first place.
Some of the other attacks that the principle of least privilege works to prevent are:
- DLL hijacking
- UAC bypass
- Token theft/manipulation
All of these could potentially create room for future or higher risk errors. However, by diminishing the number of users with higher functions, these risks are similarly diminished as well.
4. Major Damage is Limited
While the attacks themselves can lead to further, sometimes catastrophic damage, they can reign after discovery. The nature of POLP narrows the scope of harm for major damage as well. For instance, suppose that permissions are compromised, and a user can maliciously spread software throughout the entire system without restriction. This could severely damage the system to the point where complete recovery may
not be possible or may only be possible through extreme use of resources, time, and money.
The goal is to prevent this from occurring by limiting the permissions that are given in the first place. This is more effective than revoking privileges after the damage has already been done or is in the process of occurring.
5. Improved Audit Readiness
If information is misused or damage does occur within the system, an audit must be performed. Besides, there are also times when an audit must be implemented as a part of standard protocol. In either of these cases, an audit can be performed with ease by checking the existing user accounts and the programs and processes used.
Since this is already recommended with the POLP, it stands to reason that audit readiness is improved. Similarly, limiting higher privileged users allows for a more seamless audit.
6. An Overall Healthier Network
One of the major components of the principle of least privilege is ensuring comprehensive data collection and understanding the necessity of each user’s access. In doing so, the most beneficial aspect of the principle is an overall healthy network.