When it comes to cloud and network security, the least privilege principle is one of the most important concepts to understand.

So, what is the principle of least privilege, and how does it pertain to your requirements?

The principle of least privilege is a software development principle that says you should give minimum access to users and groups based on the level of access they need to do their jobs. 

How Does POLP Work?

To adhere to the principle of least privilege  (POLP), you need to understand how it works.

In its most basic form, POLP states that users, groups, and roles should only have access to the resources that they need to do their jobs.

It means that if a user doesn’t need access to a resource, they shouldn’t have it. 

The basic idea is to take a step back and evaluate how much access each role needs. Anything beyond that should be restricted.

Who Does POLP Benefit?

POLP is beneficial for both cloud and network admins and business managers. 

Cloud and Network Admins

POLP is suitable for cloud and network admins because it allows them the opportunity to take a risk-based approach when it comes to granting access.

It means that admins can offer users, groups, and roles only the amount of access they need to get their jobs done without having to worry about compromising security

Business Managers

POLP also benefits business managers. It allows them to delegate tasks and responsibilities without worrying about granting users too much access.

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It helps keep the company’s data safe and secure.

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Why Follow this Principle?

POLP is essential for cloud and network security because it makes systems more secure by only giving users, groups, and roles access to the resources they need.

If a user or group doesn’t need access to a resource, they shouldn’t have it. It also helps promote data privacy and compliance with governance policies.

Here are some benefits of the principle of least privilege.

1. Protection from Privilege Escalation Attacks

If users only have the level of access they need to do their jobs, attackers who hack into their IDs will have limited access as well.

If an attacker has access to a system with fewer privileges, they will be limited in the amount of damage they can do.

2. Compliance with Regulations

Many compliance regulations require using the least privilege in your software design.

You should check with your legal team to see if Least Privilege is necessary for your organization, but some regulations that require it are PCI-DSS and HIPAA.

3. Avoiding Data Loss from Least Privilege Violations

When users only have the privileges they need to do their job, they can’t accidentally or intentionally cause data loss.

For example, if a server doesn’t have the correct permissions, a user won’t be allowed to view, modify or delete files they aren’t allowed to access.

4. Faster Troubleshooting

If users only have the privileges they need to do their job, it is easier to troubleshoot problems.

When an issue arises, you can more quickly determine which user is causing the problem and their level of access.

If you have fewer users with access to a system, it will be easier to track down the source of any issues.

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How to Implement Least Privilege?

There are several ways to implement the least privilege in your organization. 

1. Least Privilege Account Segregation

One way to implement the least privilege is using account segregation. It means you should create separate accounts for each user and give them the minimal access they need to do their job. 

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For example, an employee in marketing doesn’t need to access payroll and other information, and POLP helps ensure they don’t have access to anything other than the data related to marketing.

2. Role-Based Access Control

Another way to implement the least privilege is by using role-based access control (RBAC). With RBAC, you create roles that define a user’s tasks. You then assign users to specific roles and give them the permissions to do their job. 

For example, helpdesk employees might only need access to email and files to troubleshoot problems for their users.

3. Multi-Factor Authorization

A third way to implement the least privilege is by using multi-factor authorization. It means you should require more than just a password to gain access to your systems.

For example, some systems require a password and an access card or pin code.

4. Privileged Identity Management Systems

Another way to implement the least privilege is using privileged identity management systems (PIMS).

These will help you manage all the accounts with elevated privileges on your servers and networks. You can create, monitor, and delete super-user accounts through a PIMS. 

Final Thoughts

So, what is the principle of least privilege? Put simply, it is a principle that dictates that every user in the cloud network should only be granted access to the information that they need in order to do their jobs. 

The principle of least privilege is essential for understanding cloud and network security.

By following this principle, you can protect your environment from privilege escalation attacks, data loss, and faster troubleshooting. 

There are several ways to implement the least privilege in your organization, so be sure to choose the method that works best for you.