Zero Standing Privileges (ZSP) Defined: How Privileged Accounts Put Your Security Risk

Zero Standing Privileges (ZSP) Defined: How Privileged Accounts Put Your Security Risk

Imagine building a beautiful new home with all the latest security measures to detect intruders – and then hanging your keys on a hook outside the door. That’s exactly what happens when you maintain accounts with standing privileges. A study from the Identity Defined Security Alliance found that 84% of organizations said they had experienced an identity-related breach in the past year. 96% said they could have prevented or minimized the breach with better identity-focused security measures.

Organizations have grappled with the fallout of weak password practices and vulnerable credentials for years, and threat actors exploit these vulnerabilities to access privileged accounts. In essence, standing privileges hand over the “keys to the castle,” enabling attackers to move unrestricted through your system. 

Fortunately, there is a simple way to minimize these kinds of breaches: zero standing privileges. 

Zero Standing Privileges (ZSP) Defined

According to Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, 74% of breaches involved a human element such as privilege misuse, stolen credentials, or error. It’s a serious problem, and many organizations are still struggling to find the right path forward. Standing privilege may seem necessary for IT or admin accounts because these users frequently need to make updates or changes to the system. The problem is that attackers can access these privileged accounts through stolen credentials or password breaches, and then wreak havoc. 

A zero standing privileges (ZSP) system removes always-on privileged access rights from all accounts. Essentially, this means that no users have unrestricted privileged access, regardless of their role. Instead, users have only the privilege they need to perform required tasks. 

ZSP works hand-in-hand with least privilege to prevent unauthorized access through privileged accounts. ZSP protocols grant access when it is needed and remove it once the task is completed, rather than giving access rights to individuals based on their role or function.

Why ZSP Matters for Cybersecurity

The bottom line is that standing privileges create security gaps that put your entire network at risk. Here’s why: 

  • Unrestricted Access – Standing privileges make it easy for hackers to access sensitive data in your system. If an attacker can access the privileged account, they can travel unrestricted through your system, making changes and accessing privileged information at will.
  • Privilege Escalation – Standing privileges also open the door for privilege escalation attacks. If an attacker accesses a standard user account, they can leverage that account to access additional privileges. They may do this through bugs in the software, security flaws, configuration vulnerabilities, or social engineering.
  • Impact Potential – Privileged accounts represent a much greater potential for harm than standard user accounts do. When organizations maintain standing privileges, they unwittingly create security risks through the very role-based access protocols that are meant to protect the system. 

ZSP is the end goal for privileged access security, and it is becoming even more urgent as technology evolves. In a recent study, nine out of ten IT leaders said that they either see emerging tech as a security risk or they have already experienced a breach related to it. Still, organizations can’t afford to sacrifice the competitive advantage offered by new technolog. This is why 94% of organizations plan to increase investments in identity management this year. 

Achieve Zero Standing Privileges with PAM

Privileged access management (PAM) is the key to reducing identity access attacks and minimizing associated risk. Effective PAM tools have become a standard requirement for many cybersecurity strategies. Here’s how these tools keeps your system safe:

  • Least Privilege – The best way to secure your privileged accounts is to ensure that all users operate with the least privilege they need to accomplish their tasks. Least privilege protocols should be enforced for all users, both human and machine, including applications, users accounts, third-party services, automations and endpoints. PAM tools accomplish this by removing local admin rights from all endpoints and treating all accounts as standard users. 
  • Just-in-Time Access – Just-in-time (JIT) access grants privileged access to applications and accounts only when it is needed for a specific task. This is a key element of Zero Trust principles, which rely on zero standing privileges to strengthen security. JIT access is baked into PAM tools, ensuring that users have only the access they need, when they need.
  • Rules-Based Access – With a PAM tool, administrators can implement rules to automate access requests based on need. This ensures that access is granted when, and only when, it is needed without requiring IT personnel to personally approve every request. It also meets user needs in the moment without frustrating them or hindering productivity. 

At CyberFOX, we have perfected the art of balancing strong security measures with user empowerment. Our goal is to ensure that your team members can perform their work efficiently while reducing threat surfaces and keeping your environment secure. 

Contact us today to learn how we help you simplify identity access management!