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Privileged Accounts Usually Poorly Managed, if Managed at All

Privileged IT accounts, those administrator “unicorn” accounts that grant virtually unlimited access to nearly every component of a company's IT infrastructure, sensitive systems and data, are mostly poorly managed, leaving the door wide open for criminals.

A survey of 913 IT professionals from around the globe from One Identity has exposed three key areas where distressingly inferior practices for privileged account management occur, including in management platforms and tools; monitoring and visibility; and unsurprisingly, password management.

When it comes to management, about a fifth (18%) of respondents admit to using paper-based logs, while a surprising 36% are using equally inadequate spreadsheets for tracking privileged accounts. The survey also found that two-thirds (67%) of companies are relying on two or more tools for management—indicating widespread inconsistency in privileged access management (PAM).

Also, the majority of IT security professionals (57%) admit to only monitoring some privileged accounts, or not monitoring privileged access at all. Even worse, 21% of respondents confessed they are unable to monitor or record activity performed with admin credentials, while 32% said they cannot consistently identify individuals who perform admin activities.

On the password front, an overwhelming 86% of organizations are not consistently changing the password on their admin accounts after each use. Further, a shocking 40% of IT security professionals don't take the basic best practice of changing a default admin password at all.

The findings come against a backdrop of heightened attacks: A recent Forrester Consulting report states that eight out of 10 breaches that occur involve privileged credentials, highlighting just how much of a target they are for hackers.

"When an organization doesn't implement the very basic processes for security and management around privileged accounts, they are exposing themselves to significant risk," said John Milburn, president and general manager of One Identity. “Over and over again, breaches from hacked privileged accounts have resulted in astronomical mitigation costs, as well as data theft and tarnished brands. These survey results indicate that there are an alarmingly high percentage of companies that don't have proper procedures in place. It is crucial for organizations to implement best practices regarding privileged access management without creating new roadblocks for work to get done."

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