Users Monitoring Best Practices

Privileged users typically hold crucial positions within organizations. They usually have elevated access, authority, and permission levels in the organization’s IT systems, networks, applications, and critical data. That’s why they may pose risks to your corporate cybersecurity, and monitoring privileged users is paramount. 

Moreover, numerous regulations and data security standards, including GDPR, HIPAA, and NIST 800-53, demand organizations monitor privileged users on an official basis. The following article reveals the best practices for Privileged User Monitoring (PUM) that can help you safeguard your critical assets and mitigate cybersecurity threats.

Why is PUM Essential?

Employees can be divided into two groups depending on their access rights: privileged and regular users. 

While both categories require thorough monitoring, the reasons for that differ:

Regular users are monitored for:

  • Evaluating employee performance.
  • Enhancing productivity.
  • Safeguarding sensitive data and critical systems.
  • Mitigating insider and outsider threats.
  • Ensuring compliance adherence.

In contrast, privileged users, are watched for:

  • Checking how they handle sensitive data.
  • Tracking modifications within systems.
  • Identifying authorized access.
  • Safeguarding sensitive data and critical systems.
  • Mitigating insider and outsider threats.
  • Ensuring compliance adherence.

From all this, it’s easy to conclude that, whereas regular users are typically monitored to evaluate their performance, privileged users are watched to ensure they don’t misuse their privileges.  

You may ask, “How to monitor privileged accounts effectively?”. Let’s look at the 10 best practices for privileged activity monitoring.

10 Privileged User Monitoring Best Practices

We’ve narrowed down the best practices for User monitoring to help you maintain the integrity and confidentiality of critical systems and data within your organization.

Privileged User Monitoring Best Practices
Completely monitor privileged user actions
Restrict privileges
Get a clear view of all admin accounts
Watch USB devices in your network
Implement secondary authentication for shared accounts
Keep an eye on remote connections
Prevent logs from being modified
Watch for unusual behavior
Watch for unusual behavior
Continuously monitor privileged users
Conduct cybersecurity training among your employees

1. Completely monitor privileged user actions

Many organizations only keep an eye on actions with specific types of data. But it’s a big mistake.

Since privileged users often have almost unlimited access to your critical assets, paying attention to their actions is crucial.

Choose a user activity monitoring solution that records information in light formats while capturing every user action on screenshots or video recordings. Looking through these records later will be a big advantage, mainly if an incident occurs. 

2. Restrict privileges

The fewer privileged users you have and the fewer privileges they have, the easier it will be to monitor their actions. That’s why consider giving elevated access rights only to employees who need that for a limited time.

To limit user privileges, you may follow the principle of least privilege, a zero trust architecture, or just-in-time PAM.

3. Get a clear view of all admin accounts

It’s a common practice when privileged users share their access rights with others. For example, some users may have admin-like access permissions but aren’t part of the admin groups, like domain admins. They are called shadow admins, and they are rather tricky to monitor. 

The 2023 Insider Threat Report by Gurucul revealed that 54% of insiders had credentialed access to networks and services. Therefore, it’s crucial to monitor shadow admins as well. You should watch what they do within your corporate network and detect when new accounts are created or old ones are removed. 

4. Watch USB devices in your network

A malicious insider may use a USB drive to steal essential data. Therefore, you should monitor all USB devices connected to your network to keep your organization’s data safe, especially the USB devices used by privileged users.

It’s essential to integrate monitoring software that can track USB device connections, send alerts when unusual USB devices are detected, and block them if need be.

5. Implement secondary authentication for shared accounts

Many organizations opt for shared privileged accounts to streamline their administrative processes. However, this inadvertently opens the door to cybersecurity vulnerabilities within their IT networks. 

Shared accounts complicate user activity monitoring and auditing since they make it nearly impossible to differentiate users’ actions. By implementing secondary user authentication as an added security measure, you can effectively identify the activities of privileged users who share accounts. 

6. Keep an eye on remote connections

With an increasing remote employees, security threats have become more acute. Organizations grant remote access to their data to regular employees, part-time workers, and subcontractors. If such users access sensitive information in your network, monitor them closely using remote desktop monitoring software.

You should also monitor RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol sessions) for privileged users. Malicious insiders can exploit RDP sessions to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or perform unauthorized actions within the network. RDP session recording and monitoring help identify suspicious activities and prevent insider threats. Also, we highly recommend you specify which systems and data can be accessed through remote logins and create whitelists for IP or MAC addresses.

 7. Prevent logs from being modified.

Depending on the extent of their permissions, privileged users might have the ability to modify or even delete logs and records. To address this issue, we advise you to grant full access to system logs exclusively to a specific role or a restricted group of users. 

When selecting monitoring software, it’s crucial to opt for a solution that prevents any alterations to logs or reports. Using such software lets you have peace of mind, knowing that records remain unaltered.

8. Watch for unusual behavior 

The actions of an external attacker or a malicious insider may differ from those of an authorized user. 

User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) technology can identify abnormal activity among users within your corporate network. UEBA tools can help you quickly detect unusual movements of privileged users.

9. Conduct cybersecurity training among your employees

Employees lacking cybersecurity knowledge might not grasp the importance of being monitored and could attempt to deceive your security measures and policies. 

Elevating the level of cybersecurity awareness among your employees is critical. Your employees will be able to identify suspicious actions and promptly notify the security team. 

10. Continuously monitor privileged users

Conducting user activity monitoring at intervals doesn’t guarantee comprehensive insight into a user’s actions and, thus, effective protection of your sensitive data. 

Privileged user monitoring is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitroing. It’s vital to regularly review your privileged user monitoring procedures and constantly enhance them with the best PUM practices. 

How can Ekran System help?

Ekran System is a full-cycle insider risk management platform, enabling you to monitor all types of users, including those with elevated access. It also helps you manage access to your network’s critical systems, applications, and data.  

With Ekran System, you can implement the best PUM practices thanks to a rich set of features for managing insider threats:

  • Continuous employee monitoring across all servers (including jump servers, endpoints, and remote workstations).
  • Privileged user monitoring and managing privileged access for your employees and third parties.
  • Windows monitoring to record both local and RDP user sessions.
  • Recording of context-rich user sessions (local, terminal, SSH, and RDP) in a searchable video format.
  • Collecting metadata on user activities, such as application names, visited URLs, and typed keystrokes.
  • Alerting and responding to cybersecurity incidents through user blocking and process termination.
  • Monitoring connected USB devices, including flash drives and USB modems.
  • Generating detailed reports and exporting user session data to facilitate forensic investigations.

These features can help you get full visibility into privileged user accounts and the assets they can access. Furthermore, the functionality of Ekran System can help you meet such cybersecurity standards as SOX, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and many others.

Final thoughts

As insider threats and data breaches become increasingly common among organizations of all sizes, implementing effective strategies for privileged user monitoring becomes essential. By monitoring privileged users, you can minimize insider threats and prevent your sensitive data from being breached. 

The ten practices above can help you create an effective privileged user management system. And Ekran System can help you get complete visibility into secret accounts, users, and third-party vendors within your corporate network. Importantly, Ekran System offers robust capabilities for monitoring RPD connections, ensuring higher security.

Work done by a Team Of Security Experts from Cyber Writes (www.cyberwrites.com) - World’s First Dedicated Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) Platform for Cybersecurity. For Exclusive Cyber Security Contents, Reach at: [email protected]