Privileged access restrictions and monitoring
Limit and monitor privileged system accesses (those that allow staff, contractors and providers to perform special functions or override system and application controls).
The Protective Security Policy Framework outlines the government protective security requirements to safeguard information from cyber threats, including to restrict administrative privileges.
Why this countermeasure matters
User accounts with administrative privileges are an attractive target because they have a high level of access to an entity’s systems. Restricting administrative privileges is an effective way to safeguard information that ICT systems process, store or communicate. Lack of tightly restricted and monitored access can lead to:
- fraudsters gaining access and spreading or hiding their existence
- uncertainty around how staff are using administrative privileges
- poor management of decision-making and risk related to administrative privileges
- staff or contractors abusing their position of trust to process fraudulent request or claims for themselves or another person
- staff or contractors abusing their position of trust to access and disclose official information without authority
- staff or contractors being coerced by others to use their administrative privileges for dishonest purposes
- staff or contractors using privileged access to make unauthorised changes to systems or databases to:
- bypass approvals
- access, manipulate or release sensitive information, or
- erase records of their activities.
How you might apply this countermeasure
Some ways to implement this countermeasure include:
- only assigning privileged roles/accounts to staff who have an appropriate security clearance
- only granting privileged system accesses on a temporary or as-needed basis
- regularly reviewing accesses to privileged roles and accounts
- increasing monitoring of staff with privileged system access such as ‘admin’ access
- audit logging and regularly reporting the use of privileged accounts
- adhering to the requirements under the:
How to check if your countermeasures are effective
Here are some ways to measure the effectiveness of this type of countermeasure:
- confirm controls comply with the Protective Security Policy Framework including security requirements for:
- sensitive and classified information
- access to information
- safeguarding information from cyber threats
- robust ICT systems.
- confirm the use of privileged accounts is controlled and auditable
- obtain and review requirements for who should have access to privileged accounts
- confirm the existence of a request and approvals process for obtaining privileged accounts
- confirm that someone cannot bypass standard process requirements even when subject to pressure or coercion
- confirm that privileged accounts are subject to separation of duties requirements.
- review the need for security clearances for privileged accounts
- review a sample of circumstances where privileged accounts were used
- review reports to confirm privileged accounts are only assigned to staff that require them
- undertake testing or a process walk-through to confirm that the limits and monitoring of privileged accounts work correctly and cannot be circumvented
- confirm the use of accounts are reviewed and reconciled, and check the reports
- review any past breaches or fraud related to the use of privileged accounts and identify how this was allowed to occur.