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Home > Teleport Academy > Authentication and Privileges

What are Ephemeral Privileges?

Posted 25th Feb 2024 by Travis Swientek

Ephemeral privileges, or ephemeral access, is a cybersecurity strategy centered on providing only short-term access rights or permissions to users, to a network or infrastructure resources

By granting temporary access rights that expire after a brief period, ephemeral privileges ensure that access is only available for the duration necessary to complete specific tasks.

Benefits of Ephemeral Privileges

Ephemeral privileges, as part of a privileged access management (PAM) strategy, harden security by reducing the attack surface and blast radius associated with compromised credentials. Implementing ephemeral privileges offers several benefits, including:

  • Reducing Security Risk: By limiting the time window for access, ephemeral privileges reduce the opportunity for hackers to exploit stolen credentials, thereby protecting sensitive data and production environments.
  • Eliminating Standing or Stale Privileges: Ephemeral privilege strategies additionally eliminate overprivileged accounts that bad actors can use to infiltrate networks, improving security posture.
  • Streamlining Access Control: Ephemeral privileges based on cryptographic identity eliminate the need for traditional password vaults and the challenges associated with managing long-lived credentials, making access control less time-consuming and more secure.

The Mechanics of Ephemeral Privileges

  • Just-In-Time Access (JIT): Ephemeral privileges are often granted on a just-in-time basis, aligning access with the immediate needs of the user or application, thereby adhering to the principle of least privilege as well as zero trust authentication.
  • Automation and APIs: The dynamic issuance of ephemeral certificates and privileges is typically automated, with APIs facilitating the integration into existing workflows, provisioning, and identity and access management (IAM) systems.
  • SSH and Remote Access: For tasks requiring secure shell (SSH) access or remote connections to critical systems, ephemeral privileges provide a secure method of access without the long-term risk posed by permanent credentials.

Teleport's Take

Teleport’s modern approach to infrastructure access unifies cryptographic identity, zero trust access, secretless authentication, ephemeral privileges, and identity and policy governance. Teleport Access Platform grants ephemeral access based on the cryptographic identity of the user, resource, and policy rules governing permissions. Access can be requested with just-in-time access requests, integrating seamlessly with DevOps workflows and cloud environments such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).

By employing short-lived digital certificates for SSH and other remote access needs, Teleport ensures that privileges are granted dynamically on-demand and expire automatically, eliminating standing privileges and significantly reducing attack surface. Our solution supports automation and is designed to work with existing IAM frameworks, including Active Directory, to facilitate secure, efficient access management for both user accounts and service accounts.

Moreover, Teleport's approach to ephemeral privileges extends beyond mere access control, encompassing privileged account management within a unified platform. This not only simplifies the user experience but also enhances the security of sensitive data across multi-cloud SaaS environments.

By prioritizing the principle of least privilege and automating the provisioning of ephemeral certificates, Teleport addresses key cybersecurity challenges, offering organizations a robust solution to protect against data breaches and unauthorized access. Our platform's emphasis on ephemeral access and zero trust principles exemplifies our commitment to delivering state-of-the-art security solutions that meet the demands of today's fast-paced, security-conscious enterprises and engineering teams.