Why Remove Local Admin Rights?

Cybersecurity measures have improved dramatically over the past decade. As technology platforms and applications have become more sophisticated and complex, so have the security systems and tools that protect them. As new 2nd generation anti-virus software, advanced UTM firewalls, threat detection and response systems, and other protocols are more widely implemented, administrators may wonder: Is it even necessary to remove local admin rights? 

That’s a fair question. Why remove local admin rights if you have invested in best-practice systems and security measures? 

The simple answer is: human error. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report, 95% of cybersecurity issues result from human error. This means your firewalls and other cybersecurity measures are doing a great job of preventing unauthorized access, but employees and the security on their workstations create a weak link in your security. No matter how well intentioned they are, employees often don’t know how to recognize security threats and may not understand how a configuration change will impact security until it’s too late. 

Why Granting Unlimited Local Admin Rights Puts You at Risk 

The best way to prevent security breaches that result from human error is to restrict local admin rights and privileges. In most cases, removing these rights can prevent significant security breaches that result from malware, ransomware, and other attacks.

Here are some common ways users may unknowingly give a cyber threat actor unauthorized access to your system:

  • Installing malicious apps which seem legitimate
  • Inadvertently giving a third party a foothold inside the network through access to their machine
  • Clicking on unsafe websites or email links
  • Using unsafe passwords or sharing credentials

Removing local admin rights will prevent almost all of these scenarios from breaching your security. It’s the best way to prevent malware and other external attacks, it can minimize what malicious actors have access to if they do get in, and it can help you recover more quickly – and with less damage –  if you do experience a breach. 

Removing admin rights and privileges is also one of the most cost-effective ways to ramp up security for your organization. In fact, some estimates report that turning off admin rights and having users operate with standard privileges can mitigate 94% or more of Microsoft vulnerabilities

Close the Gap on External Threats

Another risk of granting admin privileges broadly is that malicious actors can cause more harm if login credentials are compromised. If an attacker accesses an account with local admin rights, they can wreak havoc across your entire network. Using native tools in Windows, they can:

  • Manipulate local certificate stores
  • Bypass security restrictions
  • Escalate their privileges
  • Gain access to network admin credentials
  • Access secure files and data stores 

With local admin rights, an attacker may remain undetected in your system for extended periods of time. While there, they can carry out any action they please with plenty of opportunity to cover their tracks.

Removing local admin rights is one of the simplest ways to protect your system from external threats and stop malicious actors.

How to Manage Access Securely without the Risk

Of course, there are times when users need admin privileges to install an application, make an update, use Line of Business (LoB) applications, or perform other critical tasks. Unfortunately, Windows only offers two options for granting admin privileges on a local machine. A user may be configured either as a local admin with unlimited rights or as a standard user with no access to admin rights. Without admin rights, users must get case-by-case approval from IT, which can be difficult and time-consuming, not only for users but your technical staff. 

AutoElevate solves this problem by enabling IT professionals and MSPs to fine-tune privileges across all end users without putting their systems and data at risk. With AutoElevate, you can:

Grant limited admin rights or privileges.

Allow users to take actions that require admin privileges, but only for tasks that are safe, verified, and approved. AutoElevate configures limited local admin rights and elevates privileges automatically so you can leverage the protections Windows already has built in for standard users, without the inconvenience of case-by-case approval.

Implement the principle of least privilege.

The principle of least privilege means that users only have the privilege and access necessary to do their job. This is a fundamental security best practice that should be on your short list of practices to implement immediately. By incorporating least privilege in your standard security procedures, you can drastically reduce your attack surface while improving efficiency and stability.

Manage privilege approval without compromising productivity.

Elevate privilege automatically without bombarding your Help Desk with access requests or negatively impacting productivity. AutoElevate manages privileges with rules that can be configured globally, by company, by department, or for an individual machine. If a rule hasn’t been created in advance, access requests may be handled in just seconds, bypassing the traditional 15-30 minute manual process.

Ready to learn more? Contact CyberFox today to learn how AutoElevate can help you easily remove local admin rights, manage access, and reduce future risk!

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