Last updated at Wed, 15 Nov 2023 22:09:56 GMT

Authored by Sanjeev Williams and Ryan Blanchard

Today almost all cloud users, roles, and identities are overly permissive. This leads to repeated headlines and forensic reports of attackers leveraging weak identity postures to gain a foothold, and then moving laterally within an organization's modern cloud environment.

This has become a prevalent theme in securing the cloud, where identity and access management (IAM) plays a much larger role in governing access than in traditional infrastructure. However, the cloud was built for innovation and speed, with little consideration as to whether the access that has been granted is appropriate. The end result is an ever-growing interconnected attack surface that desperately needs to be tailored down.

To govern and minimize IAM risk in the cloud, organizations need to adopt the principle of least privilege access (LPA). Rapid7 is pleased to announce the release of LPA Policy Remediation as part of its InsightCloudSec product line. If you're not familiar, InsightCloudSec is a fully-integrated cloud-native security platform (CNSP) that enables organizations to drive cloud security forward through continuous security and compliance. The platform provides real-time visibility into everything running across your cloud environment(s), detecting and prioritizing risk signals (including those associated with IAM policies), privileges, and entitlements, and provides native automation to return resources to a state of good whenever compliance drift is identified.

With the release of LPA Policy Generation, InsightCloudSec enables customers to take action when overly permissive roles or unused access is detected, automatically modifying the existing policy to align actual usage with granted permissions. Any actions that aren't utilized over a 90-day period will be excluded from the new policy.

Permissions can't become a point of friction for developers

In today's world of continuous, fast-paced innovation, being able to move quickly and without friction is a key ingredient to delivering for customers and remaining competitive within our industries. Therefore, developers are often granted “godlike" access to leverage cloud services and build applications, in an effort to eliminate the potential that they will hit a roadblock later on. Peeling that back is a daunting task.

So how do you do that? Adopt the Principle of least privilege access, which recommends that a user should be given only those privileges needed for them to perform their function or task. If a user does not need a specific permission, the user should not have that permission.

Identity LPA requires dynamic assessment

The first step to executing on this initiative of LPA is to provide evidence to your dev teams that there is a problem to be solved. When first collaborating with your development partners, having a clear report of what permissions users have leveraged and what they have not can help move the discussion forward. If “Sam" has not used [insert permission] in the past 90 days, then does Sam really need this permission?

InsightCloudSec tracks permission usage and provides reporting over time of all your clouds, and is a handy tool to commence the discussion, laying the groundwork for continuous evaluation of the delta between used and unused permissions. This is critical, because while unused permissions may seem benign at first glance, they play a significant role in expanding your organization's attack surface.

Effective cloud IAM requires prioritization

The continuous evaluation of cloud user activity compared to the permissions they have been previously granted will give security teams visibility into what permissions are going unused, as well as permissions that have been inappropriately escalated. This then provides a triggering point to investigate and ultimately enforce the principle of least privilege.

InsightCloudSec can proactively alert you to overly permissive access. This way security teams are able to continuously establish controls, and also respond to risk in real time based on suspicious activity or compliance drift.

Like with most security problems, prioritization is a key element to success. InsightCloudSec helps security teams prioritize which users to focus on by identifying which unused permissions pose the greatest risk based on business context. Not all permissions issues are equal from a risk perspective. For example, being able to escalate your privileges, exfiltrate data, or make modifications to security groups are privileged actions, and are often leveraged by threat actors when conducting an attack.

Taking action

Ultimately, you want to modify the policy of the user to match the user's actual needs and access patterns. To ensure the insights derived from dynamically monitoring cloud access patterns and permissions are actionable, InsightCloudSec provides comprehensive reporting capabilities (JSON, report exports, etc.) that help streamline the response process to harden your IAM risk posture.

In an upcoming release, customers will be able to set up automation via “bots" to take immediate action on those insights. This will streamline remediation even further by reducing dependency on manual intervention, and in turn reduces the likelihood of human error.

When done right, LPA significantly reduces cloud risk

When done right, establishing and enforcing least-privilege access enables security teams to identify unused permissions and overly permissive roles and report them to your development teams. This is a key step in providing evidence of the opportunity to reduce an organization's attack surface and risk posture. Minimizing the number of users that have been granted high-risk permissions to the ones that truly need them helps to reduce the blast radius in the event of a breach.

InsightCloudSec's LPA Policy Remediation module is available today and leverages all your other cloud data for context and risk prioritization. If you're interested in learning more about InsightCloudSec, and seeing how the solution can help your team detect and mitigate risk in your cloud environments, be sure to register for our bi-weekly demo series, which goes live every other Wednesday at 1pm EST.