The least privilege principle is essential for various reasons. It limits the potential damage caused by a security incident, and it’s also one of the critical principles of compliance with laws and regulations, such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI DSS.
When data is accessed only by those who need it to do their jobs, the risk of accidental or unauthorized access is reduced. Security incidents can occur when information is accessed by someone who shouldn’t have it, such as a hacker or an employee who falls for a phishing attack.
By limiting access to the data, you reduce the chances of being compromised. So if your question is, “what does privilege mean?” this article will help to clear your doubts.
Least Privilege: What is it and How Does It Work?
The principle of least privilege states that a person should have only the minimum access rights to perform their job or function. In other words, if a user doesn’t need to read files from folders X and Y, their access to these files can be limited.
The principle of least privilege is among the basic tenets of information security. It helps organizations protect their sensitive data by limiting access to only those who need it.
Key Principles of Compliance
The least privilege is also one of the critical principles of compliance with laws and regulations. For example, HIPAA requires that covered entities implement security measures to protect electronically protected health information (ePHI). One of these security measures is limiting access to ePHI to those who need it to do their jobs.
The GDPR mandates that personal data be processed in a way that ensures the appropriate security of that data. Again, this aligns with the principle of least privilege and limiting access to only those who need it.
Why are Least Privilege Principles Needed for Information Security and Compliance?
The least privilege principle is essential for information security and compliance to avoid data leakage, especially in the cloud. Additionally, proper least privilege management can reduce the risk of insider threats. But, what does privilege mean when it comes to compliance?
The principle of least privilege applies to both information security and compliance. It limits the damage caused by a potential breach or loss of data when employees, customers (or anyone else) inappropriately access personal data.
The least privilege is also one of the critical principles of compliance with laws and regulations. For example, HIPAA requires that covered entities implement security measures to protect ePHI. One of these security measures is limiting access to ePHI to those who need it to do their jobs.
How Is the Principle Implemented for Information Security and Compliance?
To implement the principle of least privilege, you need first to understand which users need access to which data. It can be done by using a data classification scheme.
Once you have identified the users and the data they need access to, you can assign them the appropriate permissions. It can be done using a role-based access control (RBAC) system.
RBAC systems give administrators the ability to control who has access to resources and data. RBAC assigns users to roles, and each role is given a set of permissions. For example, a role might read files from a specific folder but not from another folder.
How to Use Least Privilege Principles
You can also use the least privilege principles to protect data in the cloud by using an identity and access management (IAM) solution. The IAM system allows administrators to set policies for how users can access resources, such as SaaS applications or virtual machines. So, what does privilege mean when it comes to controls?
Role-Based Access Controls vs. Identity Based Access Controls
Organizations need to understand the difference between role-based access controls (RBAC) and identity-based access control (IBAC). There are significant differences between the two types of systems. For example, RBAC is focused on job-function level authorization, while IBAC is focused on user characteristics such as group membership or location.
While both are important to an organization’s information security and compliance, RBAC is better suited for least-privilege implementations. It focuses on what the user needs access to and assigns them accordingly. IBAC systems do not consider job function or required data; they simply allow certain user privileges based on group membership and other characteristics.
RBAC is generally more reliable and efficient than IBAC for least-privilege implementations. While IBAC systems can track access down to the user level, they often become cumbersome to manage as the number of users and permissions increase.