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What does ”the principle of least privilege” mean as applied to security?

Data security is a sophisticated, diverse science founded on many fundamental concepts—confidentiality, integrity, and availability (the CIA trinity). The CIA trinity acts as a rock-solid pillar and aims of any information security management system.

The concept of least privilege is a guiding concept that assists companies in achieving their objectives and goals. So, what does “the principle of least privilege” mean as applied to security?

Well, in other words, the concept of least privilege covers security controls, stating that a person should only have the access permissions required to execute a specified job or activity, nothing more than that.

the principle of least privilege

As a result, a staff whose job is to handle paychecks would only have accessibility to that functionality in a payroll program and would not have management access to the client information.

Similarly, a sales and marketing manager should not have access to employee salary statistics. Likewise, an entry-level government employee should not have access to top-secret papers, and an accounting professional should not modify program source code.

The principle of least privilege and security is applied in our everyday life.

Even though we may not be aware of it, the principle of least privilege is already prevalent in everyday life. Many of us have seen or practiced variants of it in our daily lives.

For instance, parents use parental controls on their home appliances to restrict their children’s access to malicious material. This is a very simple and direct example of how the principle of least privilege works.

School students have access to education contexts but not teachers’ performance assessment files. A valet attendant can have the car key to park your vehicle but cannot access the car’s console or the trunk.

To fully understand the answer to a question like, “what does the principle of least privilege mean as applied to security?” it is important first to understand the fundamentals of cloud computing and security in an organization of any scale.

Explaining the Triple A’s 

The information security structure is centered around triple A’s (Authentication, authorization, and accountability). The principle of least privilege addresses how all the three A’s are essential in properly managing information.

This paradigm covers the following concerns:
1. The requirement to verify the identity of people trying to get access to systems or other resources (authentication).

2. Determining what they are permitted to do (authorization), and
3. Tracking all activities they perform (accounting or accountability).

So, to a reasonable degree, the idea is intended to assist businesses in reducing risk. In this case, risk can be defined as a distinct danger linked to a specific susceptibility, with the amount of risk determined by weighing both probability and consequence. —to the company, its employees, and its resources.

More precisely, the objective is to prevent the possible harm that overwhelming permissions or their exploitation might create, whether unintentionally or on purpose.

To whom and what is the principle of least privilege applied to security?

In practice, the notion of least privilege extends to systems, equipment, programs, operations, applications, and individuals. Whenever it relates to network access, they are regarded as subjects (active things that seek information) or objects (passive structures that retain or obtain information), such as computers, documents, programs, domains networks, applications, etc.

Organizations must recognize that the concept must apply to all of these units since any of them might put the business or its data in danger if exposed—this is a sense of security centered on perfection, which has no place for compliance.

Why is the principle of least privilege the most crucial means for safeguarding?

Though least privilege is among the most apparent security standards, businesses frequently fail to take that seriously enough. Referring to the CIA Triad, the haphazard use of the principle of least privilege might jeopardize the aims of preserving secrecy, authenticity, and accessibility.

In the preceding examples:
● An accountant who overwrites the client database violates availability.
● Viewing employee payroll or pay records by a sales professional breaches confidentiality.
● Integrity is violated when a financial specialist modifies the codes of an application.
● A public servant who tampers with the highest data material endangers credibility and secrecy.

Since data security is a broad and multifaceted subject, companies should adhere to core security principles and acknowledge best practices. The concept of least privilege assists organizations in strengthening their defenses by enabling the CIA trinity and minimizing the security vulnerabilities, hence lowering their total risk.

To sum up, the least privilege principle enables a company to control and be aware of the number of users allowed to access each set of data and monitor and control what kind of data each user has access to, thus reducing the chances of data breaches significantly.

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