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What Is Just in Time (JIT) Access and How Does It Bolster Your Cyber Security?

What is JIT access?

JIT (Just-in-time) access is a security concept in which temporary access to resources is allowed only when it is required and for the shortest period possible. It is an access model meant to reduce the risk of unwanted access or data breaches by minimizing the exposure of sensitive data and systems.

In terms of application, JIT access is frequently employed in the context of privileged access management (PAM). Because they often have broad access to critical systems and data, privileged accounts such as system administrators, service accounts, and application-to-application credentials are a favorite target for cybercriminals. You may drastically lower the ‘attack surface’—the number of opportunities for attackers to acquire illegal access—by limiting when and for how long these accounts have access.

JIT access is used by businesses for a variety of reasons. It improves an organization’s overall security posture by decreasing the potential for internal threats or external attackers to use legitimate but excessive privileges. This method significantly simplifies access management by eliminating the need to constantly manage and monitor long-standing privileges. Privileges are instead granted when needed and then automatically removed.

JIT access is critical in the context of Privileged Access Management (PAM). PAM is a technology that assists businesses in managing, controlling, and monitoring access to key information and infrastructure. It is used to limit the risk of security breaches by ensuring that sensitive data and systems are only accessible to authorized users. JIT access supplements this by ensuring that even these authorized individuals only have access for as long as they need to complete their work.

Organizations can have granular control over the access granted to privileged users by integrating JIT access with PAM. It keeps track of who accessed what, when, and why, which is useful for compliance, forensic investigations, and detecting potential security concerns. It is a best practice that is increasingly being adopted by enterprises that are concerned about cybersecurity.

Is JIT access similar to POLP (principle of least privilege)?

Yes, JIT access is directly related to the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP). According to the Principle of Least Privilege, users should be granted the bare minimum of access — or permissions — required to fulfill their job tasks. This is a computer security concept in which a user is granted the bare minimum of access required to accomplish his or her job tasks.

JIT access is a way for putting the Principle of Least Privilege into action. JIT ensures that users have the least privilege necessary at all times by providing access privileges only when they are required and then canceling those permissions after the necessity has passed.

Both strategies seek to limit the attack surface and safeguard systems against insider attacks or compromised credentials. They attempt to minimize the potential damage from each individual user’s account, either by limiting what it can access (PoLP) or by limiting when it can access (JIT).

While they both have identical goals, their approaches differ. PoLP is mainly concerned with access breadth: what systems, resources, or data a user has access to. JIT, on the other hand, is concerned with access duration: how long a user has access to a certain resource.

Both ideas would be used in unison in an ideal security-conscious environment. Users would be provided only what they need to execute their work (PoLP), and this access would be supplied only for the time it is required (JIT). This combination provides a strong defense against internal as well as external attacks.


Staff Correspondent at CPO Magazine