Role-based administration and why it is vital for true IT security

Secure your IT admins with ThinScale

Risks to environments with unlimited admin privileges

Security breaches are often times worst case scenarios for organizations. However, they are more common than you may think. Since last year, there have been 817 data breaches in the US alone. The truth is a lot of these breaches can be avoided if proper cybersecurity principles are followed by implementing proper role-based administration.

A lot of the time, organizations do not consider the threat vector that is the IT administrator.  

Credential leakage

19% of breaches since 2022 were caused by credentials being leaked to outside the organization. While credential security is certainly important for end-users, it is absolutely vital for administrators. This is due to the level of privilege and impact they have on an IT environment.

According it SDX Central, 36% of administrators do not sign in using an MFA. Organizations must enforce strict authentication and MFA protocols to their administrators’ credentials in order to protect the organization against attacks like ransomware.

Malicious action

Insider threats can be just as damaging as external threats. An employee with malicious intent with administrative credentials is a major risk to the whole organization. The most common forms of malicious insider action are intentional leakage of data or the active misuse of systems for personal gain/organizational damage.


IT administrators are not impervious to mistakes when it comes to security, and their increased level of permissions and control over the IT environment makes these mistakes much more impactful. An IT administrator can just as easily fall for phishing attempts or downloading a malicious application.

Other times it can be down to accidentally breaking security policy with a deployment-wide update or neglecting to update a software or operating system to the latest version after an exploit becomes known. This is another reason role-based administration should be top of priority, as it sets clear permissions for any administrator, so no low level admin can make sweeping changes to a whole deployment.

How can role-based administration reduce these risks?

Authentication integration and MFA enforcement for admins

Authentication and MFA are commonplace for most end-users in 2023. However, as we have seen, IT administrators do not fully embrace it, and this is a major problem. IT management should, at all times, follow the same protocol as end-users. At least in terms of their role-based administration for IT security.

This means they have a specific level of permissions assigned through their authentication provider and secured using MFA, ensuring that even if credentials are leaked, there is always an extra layer of defense.

Varying levels of permissions for IT administrators

When it comes to the amount of control IT management has over IT deployments, of course, they require a higher level of access than normal end-users. However, it is important to only give them no more than exactly what is required for work; the least privilege principle is an essential aspect of Zero-Trust security.

Organizations should understand the roles and function of their IT departments and provide security and viewing permissions for them accordingly. A helpdesk administrator should not be able to view the entire network of endpoints and make any changes they want.

The best IT asset and endpoint management solutions restrict both viewing and permissions based on the admin’s roles and seniority. This is particularly important in multi-tenant/multi-customer deployments.


IT teams are not immune to security issues and, if exploited by malicious actors, can lead to substantial (and expensive) security breaches. While IT teams cannot be restricted to the same levels as end-users, organizations can ensure secure IT management by making sure that admins only have enough privileges to do their job and enforcement of MFA and authentication standards to ensure their credentials remain protected.

To learn more about what ThinScale can do to secure your IT management team without restricting its functionality, feel free to get in touch below.

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