Enterprise password vault vs. PAM password manager

For a strong cybersecurity plan, organizations need to compare the benefits of an enterprise password management vault versus a PAM password manager. These solutions have different uses, but they are also complementary. When it comes to maintaining Zero Trust security, you may discover your best option is to combine the two.

Enterprise password managers vs. privileged access management (PAM)

Companies rank securing passwords as a top cybersecurity goal. And while securing employee passwords may come to mind first, you must protect privileged passwords and credentials to mitigate your greatest risks. According to a 2022 report from Verizon, over 80% of data breaches involve privileged credentials—this is the kind of info that hackers really want.

Elevated credentials are like a skeleton key to your organization. A single privileged password lets a bad actor move through your business network without detection, causing financial loss, damage to your reputation, and compliance violations. It’s time to make privileged access management (PAM) a priority.

What is privileged access management?

PAM is a digital identity solution that monitors, detects, and blocks unauthorized access of privileged accounts to protect against cyberthreats. Privileged account password management is central to safeguarding the mission, privacy, and resources of your organization.

A PAM solution makes it easy to see who is using privileged accounts and what they’re doing with that access. It supplies protections limiting elevated administrative access to authorized users who require that access for their workflows. A PAM password manager makes sure it’s difficult to guess or steal privileged passwords, while making it easy to conduct audits to check on unusual behaviors. Sensitive information is protected, and attack surface is limited.

What is password vaulting?

An enterprise password vault stores passwords and credentials in an encrypted format. This solution increases security, but doesn’t provide Zero Trust because users are allowed to know and see each password. Enterprise password managers are a more secure option than trusting employees to safeguard their credentials, as well as a less expensive option than more advanced PAM solutions. They’re a good first step. To increase security to protect privileged passwords and credentials, you’ll need a PAM password vault.

PAM vs password manager

When comparing PAM password managers to enterprise password managers, PAM has the edge. A PAM password vault advances security and IT options by providing a way to monitor, manage, and control access to ALL privileged accounts and credentials. PAM software combines an encrypted credential vault with approval workflow, a robust job engine with password rotation and discovery, and session management with recording. In one solution, you can securely manage and reduce the number of privileged or shared accounts, implement the principle of least privileges, tighten controls over permissions, and provide secure remote access to employees.

What about SSO as a PAM alternative?

Single sign-on (SSO) is a secure way to prevent the time and productivity lost when employees must repeatedly enter a username and password into different applications and workstations. In healthcare, for example, providers have to do this approximately 70 times a day—and they’ll find a less secure shortcut when a patient needs them fast and they can’t remember their password.

SSO streamlines workflows with quick and easy authentication methods. So quick and easy that many people who don’t know what SSO is still use it every day – such as when they use their Google account to access a third-party website or application. This ease and convenience makes SSO a great addition to any workplace.

SSO is an excellent tool for consolidating your organization’s workflow. From a security standpoint, however, it needs to be partnered with complementary solutions like identity governance and multifactor authentication. SSO may not be an ideal PAM alternative, but it’s a helpful part of your overall cybersecurity plan when bolstered with additional security measures.

Benefits of having both PAM and an enterprise password manager

For a strong combination of security and ease, you could consider using both a PAM password manager and an enterprise password manager. PAM software is the choice to safeguard your most sensitive passwords and credentials, while enterprise password managers protect those important, but less sensitive passwords, such as those shared across teams.

Many organizations have departments that standardly use applications or systems with passwords shared by multiple team members. These may include an HR portal, social media accounts, or industry resource sites. While access to these applications should be secured, the level of security need not be as strict.

An enterprise password manager, like Imprivata Enterprise Password Vault, is a cost-effective way to securely share these less-sensitive credentials without adding users to your PAM implementation. Enterprise password managers can be key to securing shared accounts, particularly if you use multifactor authentication (MFA). MFA can present a challenge when users try to access shared accounts. Which team member receives the authentication token? And how do they know who requested it?

The most secure choice is to place shared passwords into a secure enterprise password manager that each team member can access. With Imprivata Enterprise Password Vault, team members gain access by using a natural domain account to connect to a central vault that manages authentication. Since the vault serves as a gateway to the remote destination, team members never have to know the password to that particular shared application. This minimizes vulnerabilities and prevents the password from leaking to anyone outside the approved team.

Which should you choose?

When it comes to password security, it’s important to examine the specific use case and type of account. Is it a privileged account, personal account, or shared team account? Does the account have access to sensitive business information and systems that make it an appealing target to bad actors? Are you looking to merely lock down the password, or does this access point require the monitoring and auditing features of a PAM password manager?

Learn more about the Imprivata difference, and our range of IAM solutions for improving your security posture and protecting passwords, from Imprivata Enterprise Password Vault to Imprivata Privileged Access Management.