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Find Out About The Principle Of Least Privilege


Have you ever worked in a company or institution where you had access only to certain information as a user? That was the principle of least privilege coming into effect. It is a principle in computer science, information technology or IT, and other fields that limit users’ rights to necessary resources. Another name for it is the principle of minimal privilege (POMP).


But, what is the principle of least privilege in terms of security, how does it work, and its benefits? Continue reading to know the answers to those questions.

A brief introduction to least privilege

As mentioned above, the principle of least privilege is a concept in computer security of IT that allows employers or users in a particular set-up to access only those features that are necessary to their jobs. Users are granted permission to work on those applications and files without which a process would remain incomplete.

However, the restricted access might also apply to systems, applications, and other connected devices by ensuring that they require permission for completing a specific task. The least privilege principle is also known as the access control of minimal privilege principle and is considered indispensable for protecting high-value data and assets.

What is privilege creep?

The principle of least privilege also includes a component called privilege creep, also known as access creep. It refers to the gradual build-up of unnecessary permissions and access rights to individuals. With time, users have more access to certain features than is usually required. That happens for a couple of reasons.

For example, employees who have just been promoted might need access to certain features related to their old positions. That could result in potential security risk and breach scenarios. Since the employee has access to security features of both the old and new jobs, it could result in data loss or theft very easily. Permissions that are intended initially only for selected users could end up landing in the wrong hands and giving them unwanted access to a company’s system and data security.

Privilege creep also creates the possibility of an internal security breach within the organization since the employees have access to sensitive databases.

Why is the principle of least privilege essential?

An organization applies the principle of least privilege for a couple of reasons; the obvious one is security. There are several other reasons, a few of which are mentioned below.

Reduces the possibilities of a cyber attack

One of the significant and obvious benefits of the principle of least privilege is the reduction of cyber attacks or potential security breaches. Most hackers depend on exploiting privileged credentials for gaining access to restricted security features. When an organization limits super-user and administrator privileges, it reduces the chances of an overall cyber breach.

Preventing the spread of malware

Application of the least privilege access also helps prevent the spread of malware. Whenever malware is believed to infect a system, it is contained at the very outset or restricted to the exact area where it first appeared, for instance, by applying SQL injections. It also ensures that malware attackers are discouraged from accessing higher administrative accounts to infect the system.

It enhances the end-user productivity

Another benefit of restricting privilege access to specific users is that it enhances end-user productivity considerably. Since users have access only to essential features, they are discouraged from accessing those features unrelated to their jobs or related to their positions in any way. It also ensures that the IT department in an organization does not have to deal with the threat of a security breach regularly.

Make compliance and audit process easier

Restricting the users’ access rights and privileges helps an organization make its compliance and audit process straightforward. It shows the required security measures and provides a detailed audit trail of privileged activities.

Difference between least privilege and SOD

Even though many people believe them to be the same thing, there is a significant

difference between the principle of least privilege and separation of duties or SOD.

While the principle of least privilege entails restricting user access to certain security features, applications, and systems, separation of duties involves distributing tasks between two people in an organization.

The objective is to avoid any particular individual possessing complete control over any action that may create the potential for security breaches. Usually, separation of duties is used in addition to the least privilege principle.

So, now that you know the answer to the question, “What is the principle of least privilege?” you will be able to understand how significant it is in the security of data in an organization. Put simply, it is an effective and result-oriented approach to dealing with security issues in an organization and ensuring that malware and cyber attacks are kept to a minimum at all times.