Contractors and Freelancers vs. Access Privileges

If your organization is running like most other organizations today, you probably are working with freelancers and third-party vendors. On a daily basis, these non-employees are granted access to your organization’s internal networks, applications and resources. While most organizations rely on certain third-party vendors to support their development, IT infrastructures and networks, they tend to overlook the security risks that come with hiring these contractors.

This has created a significant challenge for IT and security teams when it comes to network visibility and access management. Most security teams will have little to no information on how contractors or third-party vendors are working within the organization’s environment. Unlike an employee of the company, non-employees might be working with loose security policies or at worst no security hygiene. For this simple reason, privileged third-party access accounts are now becoming one of the biggest risks to organization’s security.

breaches                                                                                                                                                                                             Source: Soha Third-Party Advisory Group

 Over the past few years, we have seen major data breaches grab the headlines that were caused by third-party vendors. Some of the more famous breaches include Target, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Home Depot. All three breaches did not result from direct insider attacks but were exploited from a breach of a third-party vendor they were using. These examples of different attacks show that exploiting a contractor or third-party vendor can hurt an organization financially and even worse put your organization’s security at risk.  

thirdpartybreaches                                                                                                                                                                                             Source: CyberArk

To fight off different third-party security risks, many organizations have adopted different solutions to defend against them which has created a bigger issue as organizations are forced to provide non-employees too much access to resources and their network. To protect an organization’s data and resources against security risks that come with using third-party vendors you need to think about implementing a stronger access privilege strategy within your company.  

Managing Privileged Access 

Properly managing access is a much tougher task. In every organization, different users need different levels of access to do their daily work within their environment. Not every employee needs the same access to do their job, this is especially true for third-party contractors. For example, if an organization is using a vendor to run IT maintenance, they will need access to the IT infrastructure and networks and should not receive unlimited access like gaining permissions to the customer data. Security and IT teams should provide the correct access based on the user. By providing the incorrect level of privileges access to a user it can result in increased security risks within an organization.

Take Control of Contractors’ Access

Despite all the risks involved when working with third-party vendors, the IT community has designed a different but new identity and authentication process for organizations to manage privileged access with non-employees. Here are our top three methods that can help any organization achieve a more concrete strategy when providing access to third-party contractors.  

Implement Least Privilege Access

The idea of least privilege access is that your organization should limit each user’s access to only the privileges they need to do their job. By limiting each user’s access, you prevent an attacker from gaining access to large amounts of data through a single compromised account.

When an organization is creating an access management program it should start with the least privileged access model. The best way to achieve the least privileged access with an organization is through role-based access, which offers access and permissions based on the employee’s role. The role-based access model is the easiest for organizations to adopt when managing the access of contractors or third party vendors. 

Run an Audit of Vendor’s Privileged Accounts

If an organization is providing unlimited access to different vendors they are creating an “always-available entry point” for cybercriminals to exploit. So it’s best for IT and security teams to get a better understanding of who the vendors or contractors are and what access they have in the organization’s networks and applications. An easier way to solve is this by running a vendor’s privileged access audit. This will allow you to get a clear understanding of who has access to what and which users shouldn’t be having access to.

Enforce Strong Authentication Methods

To implement a well-tuned privilege access strategy it needs to include up-to-date authentication best practices. Your typical contractor or third-party vendor will be working remotely and will need a certain level of access to do the job that you hired for them to do. After providing the correct level of access, it’s crucial to implement a stronger authentication technique.

To easily secure your vendor’s privileged identity from hackers looking in to steal credentials,  it’s highly recommended to enforce Multi-factor authentication. By forcing a second factor for identity verification, it eliminates the risk by ensuring that stolen credentials alone won’t be enough to ensure access. When you implement MFA capabilities with strong passwords, SSH keys, and strong internet hygiene, you can further reduce the chances of a breach.

By requiring significant step-ups in authentication, as well as strong cloud policies, your organization can adopt more vendors without worrying about if the identity of their users will be exploited. and apply it to identity management.

Prioritizing Vendor Privileged Access Management Today

As organizations start to be more on top of who is gaining access and where they are coming from, the last thing an IT and security team needs is an external employee being the reason for a hacker comprising the network. Now that more organizations are partnering with other parties, it can create more security challenges. So best to address your third-party vendors to ensure they are only provided the right amount of access.

By understanding who has access to what and who is connecting to the network, it will allow your organization to have a more meaningful privileged access management in place. This will evolve your contactors and third-party vendors from being the biggest risks to your security to them becoming the most secure users.