The Identity Blog

What Are The 3M’s of Privileged Access Management?

Privilege escalation attacks happen when the bad actors exploit bugs, weak passwords, or misconfigurations, to gain access to sensitive information or the system controls. It can permit a simple malware infection to blow up into a catastrophic data breach. 

Here are the 3M’s of usual privilege escalation attacks.


As the attackers pursue to probe for weaknesses a variety of attack surfaces are increasing and changing day by day. A recent report from Stanford University stated that nearly 88% of data breaches are caused by human errors. Mistakes are inevitable when busy admins handle numerous manual tasks under tight deadlines. They take the form of:

  • Administrative account mistakes: Granting excessive access, rubber stamping, or role copying.
  • User mistakes: Weak passwords and falling for social engineering schemes or phishing.
  • Technical mistakes: Mistakes and misconfigurations in firewall or network configurations. 

An identity-driven PAM solution can assist organizations to pinpoint these errors and hence they can take mitigating actions in a timely manner. 


Misuse happens when the internal admins intentionally compromise a system for expediency or their personal gain. Approximately 74% of data breaches include privilege access misuse or compromise. They are of two forms:


  • Default or weak passwords for the admin or root accounts
  • Usage of undocumented backdoors into shadow IT or environments 
  • Unchanging defaults in the new system
  • Lacking an adequate PAM process in place


When an aggrieved employee who still has access, cautiously steals data in an effort to harm the organization on the way out.

But most often, misuse happens without malicious intent. The best way to address misuse is by going beyond password vaulting and removing standing privilege. Centralizing privileged accounts in a vault is the foundation of traditional PAM solutions that won’t reduce the number of privileged accounts or lessen the risk of these privileges.  


Malice is the end result of the previous 2M’s. It occurs when the bad actors exploit vulnerabilities in order to get access to protected assets or disrupt the operations which they frequently do by using stolen credentials. It’s an understatement to voice that the Dark Web has thousands of cloud credentials for sale. Malicious attacks take the form of malware, worms, spyware, trojans, and ransomware. Attackers can wreak havoc when the user credentials get into the wrong hands.

The traditional approaches to secure privileged accounts don’t address persistent privilege or privilege sprawl effectively. Also, they don’t provide timely visibility across hybrid environments and applications. Whereas, the cloud demands increased flexible security measures. Enterprises should assess real-time activity among the elastic workloads, accounts, and access. They must identify misconfigured objects and trigger remediation steps automatically.

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