So I've Removed Admin Rights...What Now?

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The removal of admin rights is one of the most effective ways for organizations to improve the security of their data. It ensures that any successful attack on a user's account will be unlikely to result in widespread system changes or the installation of malicious software.

However, restricting user admin rights is just one important part of improving data security. A number of risks still remain should an attacker breach your systems, but by combining the removal of admin rights with other simple security measures can significantly limit the impact of this.
Why an environment of least privilege is more secure 
Last year, our Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report revealed that implementing a restriction on the number of individuals who hold admin rights eliminates up to 80% of all vulnerabilities in commonly-used applications including Excel, Word, Publisher and PowerPoint. While this represents a significant boost to data security, businesses should now be going further in their efforts.

Adopting a default setup of individual accounts that have the lowest level of privilege to be able to carry out their role ensures a range of benefits, including: 

  • A minimized attack surface: Attackers will only be able to access areas of a business pertinent to that user's role. The volume and type of information they can access is therefore significantly restricted. 
  • Reduction in malware propagation risk: Embedded malware will only be able to infect a small area of a network should an account become compromised. In this way, the spread of attacker influence can be greatly reduced. 
  • Increased network stability: Adverse changes can be more swiftly identified and more easily resolved when the scope of systems and files affected is reduced. 
  • Reduced insider threat: As individual users only have access to systems and information relevant to their role, an environment of least privilege offers enhanced protection in the case of disgruntled insiders who intend to cause harm.  

The advantages of least privilege adoption are seen most prominently when organizations are faced with a successful assault on their systems. In cases where attackers can breach a company's outer defenses, the level of access they will be granted on the inside is significantly reduced. 
Application control adds additional security 
Organizations that are hoping to better defend their business against malicious cyber assault should be actively introducing another key measure – application control. This practice ensures that unauthorized applications are not be able to execute in a way that places data security at risk. It is managed through a process of whitelisting and blacklisting all applications, ensuring administrators have full control and oversight of how their IT systems operate. The benefits of application control include being able to:  

  • Identify and control applications with your network: Provides a clear and complete picture of all active and inactive applications and systems. 
  • Prevent unauthorized execution: Only authorized applications can execute. All executions that are not on an approved whitelist are automatically halted. 
  • Improve network stability: By limiting the extent to which changes can be made, administrators can promote greater stability and limit or rollback adverse changes more easily. 
  • Protection against known exploits: Vulnerabilities in unpatched operating systems and third-party applications can be reduced. 
  • Better understand data traffic: Companies operating application control can more easily monitor the flow of data within their systems, providing details on users’ access requirements and activities. 

Application control ensures that organizations can more effectively view and manage the interconnection of applications and systems, while providing oversight on the transfer of data and reducing their exposure to risk. 

Ultimately, organizations that are committed to developing stronger safeguards against cyber threats shouldn’t rely on any one method to keep data safe. Instead, implementing a combination of simple but proactive measures can significantly improve the security posture of a business and reduce the risk of a successful data breach.

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