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How Enterprises Can Reduce their Cyber Risks with the Simple Principle of Least Privileges

The principle of least privilege (POLP) is an important concept in computer security, and is the practice of limiting access rights for users to bare the minimum damages.

In the world of cyber security, the assignment of permissions that a user may have to a system or to information is a security practice that is continuously applied. Like, OS is developed with the different roles and privileges – that are designed for different user profiles, based on their activities and responsibilities.

Operating as per the principle of least privilege, as the name says – is based on the premise of only granting necessary and sufficient permissions to users to carry out their activities, for a limited time, and with the minimum rights required for their tasks. This practice can be implemented concerning technology usage, to ensure the security of information as well as privacy.

Minimal trust describes the concept of providing the least privilege possible to get the job done. It is a risk-based model for IAM (Identity and Access Management) – that requires a dynamic approach to security, privacy and privilege.

Can the least privilege be applied to social networks?

The recent revelations involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica – demonstrate the value of personal data and the responsibility we have as users over how our personal information is handled

We shouldn’t be ignoring the fact that paradigms of privacy change are a constant concern, especially in the digital age, where even new legislation seeks to grant more rights to users over their information.

Based on this knowledge, a good practice would be to only provide the basic necessary information to use social networks and to not share sensitive or confidential information with any other users. In addition to being careful about the information we post on different social platforms, it is also suggestible to configure the privacy and security options. The restrictions apply to other users concerning the posts or data on display.

The principle of least privilege on mobile devices

On regular basis, the applications we install on our devices should be limited by privileges on the devices. The application might be considered intrusive or even malicious due to the permissions it requests when it is installed and due to those activities it then carries out on the device.

There have been multiple scenarios that happened in which applications request permissions – that are often not necessary for their intended function on a cellular device. For instance, the flashlight application only turns on/off the LED of the device and does not require other access or information to the cellular devices like location, contacts, calls or messages. Once a banking Trojan was discovered which was targeting Android users. Once it is installed and executed, the app requested devices administrator permissions. And granting the permissions to this particular app, this remotely controlled threat which is also sought to steal the banking credentials of its victims.

The principle of least privilege could also be applied to this scenario, by only providing the app with the minimum privileges necessary for its function.

Benefits of the Principle of Least Privilege

  • Better Security:
    For example, if a system has been infected by malware and if the same system as part of an organization that follows the principle of least privilege – then it would net get spread to other machines. This means you can reduce the chances of viruses, worms or rootkits being installed since most of your employees will not have the admin right to enable their installation. Since the potentially affected user has limited rights, the malware will not be able to produce any catastrophic damage, such as permanently deleting or downloading proprietary data.
  • Limiting Entrances for Malicious Actors:

According to a study done among UK employees, 25% of the total respondent suggested that they would be open to selling data for the right price. Moreover, 1 in 10 respondents admitted that for £250 or less, they would also sell intellectual property, such as product specifications and product code and patents.

A least privilege policy creates targets for malicious actors while promoting a healthy IT environment. The danger of unintentional insider threats can always exist inside your organization – which means some employees may knowingly or unknowingly harm by clicking on phishing links.

  • Improved audit readiness:
    By implementing the principle of least privilege into your organization, you can always improve audit readiness and at the same time achieve regulatory compliance. However, even if your business does not need to comply with these regulations, still keep in mind that as a best practice, the POLP should always be implemented.


The principle of least privilege is a basic cyber security concept – that will support your defenses and enables you to give your users/employees only the permission they are required to perform their regular tasks. IT administrators, HR teams and data owners must work together to determine and define – exactly what all permissions each account should have.

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