Why Organizations need to think beyond known user access vulnerabilities
Venkat Thummisi
June 19, 2023
min read

Security in the Digital Landscape: Understanding User Access Behaviors

In today's interconnected world and complex digital supply chains, security is a top priority for organizations of all sizes. Protecting sensitive information and maintaining the integrity of systems and networks requires a thorough understanding of user access behaviors, both known and unknown.

Known user access behaviors refer to the expected and documented ways in which users interact with a system or network. Normal activities such as logging into an account, accessing a file or resource, or following established procedures are considered known user access behaviors. Brute force attacks, SQL injection, Cross-Site scripting, Phishing, etc are some of the known user behaviors

However, not all user access behaviors are benign. Known malicious user access behaviors are intentional actions designed to compromise the security of a system or network. Examples of known malicious behaviors include brute force attacks, SQL injection attacks, cross-site scripting attacks, phishing, denial of service attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and ransomware attacks. It's crucial to monitor and prevent these known malicious behaviors to maintain the security and integrity of a system or network.

Unknown Malicious User Access Behaviors: A Growing Concern

Breaches emanating from unknown behaviors are becoming increasingly prevalent and pose a significant threat to organizations. Unknown malicious access behaviors refer to new and evolving tactics used by attackers to compromise the security of organizations, often using new and innovative methods that are not yet widely recognized or documented. These types of attacks are particularly concerning for organizations, as they can be difficult to detect and defend against, making a proactive approach to security essential.

Some examples of unknown malicious behaviors include advanced persistent threats, fileless attacks, supply chain attacks, social engineering attacks using new tactics, new malware variants, and zero-day exploits.

The Root of the Problem: Challenges in detecting Privilege Misuse and Privilege Abuse

Malicious user access, whether known or unknown, stems from human error or deliberate account compromises from within or outside an organization. Cyberattacks have shown that threat actors go beyond known malicious tactics, leveraging organizational vulnerabilities and blind spots such as exposed assets or inactive users with excessive privileges.

The current industry solutions address some of the known indicators of privilege abuse such as Enforcing Least privilege Access across the organization. The reality is that todays digital supply chains are dynamic and need changing user roles and privileges which a static LPA solutions can’t address.

The dilemma organizations face is that unknown malicious behaviors are often only identified after the event, sometimes weeks, months, or even years later. Security teams are constantly playing catch-up with the threat sophistication. Privilege abuse and malicious access is a Here-And-Now problem, a minute late in detecting them may be too late.

The context behind user access becomes critical in detecting and responding to malicious access attempts in real time. Organizations must take a proactive approach to security, merely gating known access vulnerabilities is no longer enough to detect malicious access events and prevent security breaches