A Guide to Least Privilege Implementation

A Guide to Least Privilege Implementation

Security and safety are always on the top priority of most software and application developers/managers. To ensure data safety, you must hold everyone accountable associated with the software. And that begins with assigning a role to every user and limiting them to that role. In computer security, this concept is covered extensively in the Principle of Least Privilege.

What is the Principle About?

The principle states that each user, software component, application, and service should be granted permission as per their role and not more than that. This is irrespective of how skilled, talented, trustworthy the user is. They should always be granted explicit permissions for the work they’re supposed to do and be prohibited from others.

This principle is a fundamental concept of network and system security. Also, in fault tolerance and risk management practices, this principle can be applied extensively at all levels.

As an example, consider an HR staffer working at a bank. The bank uses an enterprise application to manage its day to day operations. An HR staffer’s role is to manage the employees and keep them compliant with its policies. So they should be given access to the payroll database to read and write data. It makes no sense to grant access to the marketing department. This could make the system vulnerable to malpractice and data theft.

What Is Its Significance for Cloud Security

The concept of least privilege is important because of the benefits it offers. Here’s why it is vital for companies:

Better Access Management

It has been seen over and over again that the main reason for data breaches is poor access management. Companies tend to give too many privileges to their employees. This is the reverse of what good access management should look like. Not only will this compromise the enterprise software, but reduce accountability.

Forrester Research has reported that 80% of all security breaches involved privilege abuse. Least privilege ensures users have no more privileges granted than they need to do their job.

Better Configuration Management

Least privilege also helps in creating better configuration management. Whenever someone with administrative credentials logs into the system, they can modify configuration settings.

In some cases, especially those involving data breaches, this modification is inappropriate and are uncalled for. With the least privilege in place, you give this control exclusively to the people who are in authority. The Just Enough and Just in Time concepts in Windows Server as based on this approach.

Regulatory Compliance

Every business today needs to be compliant with their respective regulatory bodies. And the regulatory bodies require businesses to be secure against data breaches. The least privilege will help your business stay compliant from a security point of view. The breach regulation rule of HIPAA is the best example.

How to Implement Least Privilege?

If you want to get started with implementing the least privileges, you need to identify user roles within your company and set up an account for them accordingly. There are four types of accounts you can create. Those are:

  1. User account – These are role-based accounts provided to employees to perform their duties.
  2. Privileged account – Also known as superuser accounts, these types of accounts are usually provided to managers and certain IT professionals to access, modify crucial data and services.
  3. Shared account – These are also known as a generic account that is used by multiple users. These types of accounts are usually not recommended unless it’s unavoidable.
  4. Service account – Service accounts are for software and programs to access certain applications. You need to set up these accounts for automating tasks.

Next, you need to create role-based accounts. This is the foundation for implementing least privilege. Involve all the stakeholders in making the decisions. It becomes even more important if it is for an enterprise-wide system.

To confirm all the accounts are created as per the user role, you can run a pilot phase and review the process for a few weeks. If everything seems fine, you can carry one with it.

But from time to time, you should review the privileges and update them accordingly if the roles are changed. If they remain unchanged, they pose a risk for a potential attack.


At the end of the day, you need to be aware that the least privilege approach is not sufficient in itself. You need to use it with other technologies like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and software restriction policies. The more security layers you can add to the enterprise system, the better.

To implement the best system for your business, you should seek consultation from cybersecurity experts. You’ll get a roadmap to follow.

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