The security principle of least privilege, abbreviated as (POLP), states that each individual, program, or system should only have the permissions required to execute its purpose.
A user account formed to extract information in the database, for example, does not require administrative privileges. In contrast, a coder whose primary purpose is to update lines of legacy code does not require access to financial statistics.
The concept of least privilege is also known as the principle of minimal privilege (POMP) or the principle of least authority (POLA). In data protection, adhering to the security principle of least privilege is considered best practice.
How does it function?
The philosophy of least privilege operates by granting only enough accessibility to do the task. Adherence to the security principle of least privilege in an IT environment lowers the chance of hackers getting access to vital networks or sensitive information by corrupting a low-level user profile, device, or app.
Applying the concept of least privilege helps confine breaches to their point of origin, preventing them from propagating to the whole system.
Any system level can benefit from the security principle of least privilege. Existing end-users, systems, procedures, protocols, databases, applications, and every other aspect of an IT ecosystem are all covered.
Here are a few examples of how the notion could well be applied in practice.
Minimizing the malware menace:
According to the concept of least privilege, a worker whose duty is to update information into a database just requires access to add entries to that system. So, if that user’s login credentials are leaked or if their account is compromised, the attacker will only be allowed to create database entries.
However, without the least privilege concept, this person may have been granted admin privileges, meaning, anyone who has access to his account will be able to access the entire network undetected.
Least privileged MySQL accounts:
When using many accounts to accomplish distinct duties, a MySQL system adheres to the concept of least privilege. An automated process that allows users to filter information should ideally employ a MySQL login with only sorting access.
As a result, a hacker who attacks the form only gains the ability to filter records. If the user had been granted the ability to remove information, the attacker might be able to erase the whole dataset.
Benefits of the principle of least privileges:
According to Microsoft research, from 2016 to 2020, 83 percent of security breaches on Windows systems might have been addressed by eliminating administrator privileges. In fact, after 2020, all significant flaws in Internet Explorer and Edge have been fixed by removing admin access.
Least-privilege has also been shown to have a tremendous risk-reducing capability in third-party software such as Adobe, Google, Oracle, Cisco, and many others.
Unrestricted privileged rights and access fundamentally translate to an unlimited inherent danger. The more rights a person, account, or system has, the more likely it will be exploited, manipulated, or misused.
Thus, adopting the least privilege principle minimizes the risk of data breaches happening in the first place and helps restrict the extent of data loss in case of a breach.
Some benefits of adopting the security principle of least privileges
- A compressed threat surface: Restricting access to people, programs, and software solutions, which reduces the number of paths and ingression, leading to unwanted exploitation.
- Decreased malware infiltration and proliferation: Least privilege significantly reduces malware infection and spreading by denying malware (such as SQL injection attacks or other ransomware) and its capability to escalate systems that allow it to get installed unknowingly.
- Providing better security: Remember Edward Snowden? He was able to release millions of NSA Intelligence records and data because he had administrative rights, despite his greatest responsibility being to create data backups. Since the Snowden debacle, the NSA has updated its security policies, including using the security principle of least privilege to strip 90% of its staff of higher-level authority.
- Improved system stability:Concerning security, the concept of least privilege improves system stability by restricting the consequences of modifications to the domain in that they are done.
- Enhanced audit preparation:When the audited system is constructed on the concept of least privilege, this can drastically reduce audit scope. Furthermore, many existing rules mandate POLP adoption as a condition of compliance. So, a very audit-friendly environment is created.
- Enriches worker efficiency:Providing users only what they need to perform their tasks increases performance and minor troubleshooting.
- Assists in data segmentation:In the case of unwanted access, the principle of least privileges allows an IT environment to control who has access to confidential information or a set of essential data.