Remote access

What is the Difference between Secure Remote Access (SRA) and Privilege Access Management (PAM) Solutions?

January 2024

Secure Remote Access (SRA) and Privilege Access Management (PAM) solutions are two distinct categories of cybersecurity tools, each with its own focus and functionality. They serve separate but related purposes in the realm of cybersecurity.

Let’s explore the differences and similarities between the two.

 

Secure Remote Access (SRA) Solutions

Secure Remote Access (SRA) Solutions are designed to enable remote users, such as employees or third-party vendors, to securely connect to a company’s infrastructure and systems from outside the corporate network.

Therefore, SRA solutions are essential for remote maintenance, enabling access to devices from anywhere while ensuring security and compliance with an organization’s policies.

SRA Solutions’ Features

While each SRA solution may provide specific capabilities, most of them include the following features:

  • VPNs, SSL/TLS, or other secure protocols for data transmission to establish secure encrypted connections for remote users to access corporate IT and OT resources.
  • Authentication and authorization mechanisms to ensure only authorized users gain access – such as Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) or Secure Single Sign-On (SSO) for simplified user access.
  • Secure Tunneling by creating a protected and encrypted pathway (or “tunnel”) through which data can be safely transmitted between the remote user’s device and the corporate network, protecting data in transit via encryption; some SRA solutions also offer Secure File Transfer capabilities, allowing remote users to transfer files between their local devices and the corporate network.
  • Access Control to define and enforce policies that restrict access based on user roles, devices, or locations – and mechanisms to approve access requests.

SRA Solutions’ Benefits

Supporting a wide range of use cases, Secure Remote Access (SRA) Solutions offer multiple benefits to organizations seeking to improve their OT cybersecurity profile:

  • Allowing companies to support remote work and secure access to corporate resources from anywhere with an internet connection, SRA solutions enable flexibility – which is especially valuable during emergencies or in a global workforce.
  • For the same reason, SRA solutions play a crucial role in business continuity plans, ensuring that operations can continue even when employees cannot physically be present due to unexpected events like natural disasters or pandemics.
  • Besides, enabling remote access leads to cost and time savings – as there is no need to pay and wait for a technician’s trip to the location where the device in need of assistance is located.
  • What’s more, it allows companies to tap into a global talent pool by hiring remote workers from various geographic locations, accessing specialized skills, and reducing the impact of skill shortages.

 

Privilege Access Management (PAM) Solutions

Privilege Access Management (PAM) solutions are used to manage and control privileged access to critical IT systems, applications, and data within an organization.

These solutions focus on securing and monitoring privileged accounts (and what actions they can perform).

PAM Solutions’ Features

PAM solutions’ capabilities usually include:

  • Credential Management and password vaulting to store, manage, and rotate privileged account credentials.
  • Role-based access control, Segregation of Duties (SoD) for limiting privileges, and Just-In-Time (JIT) Privilege elevation to grant temporary and specific privileges to users or administrators.
  • Session recording to review and audit sessions involving privileged access for security analysis.
  • Monitoring and documentation of privileged users’ activities for security and compliance purposes.

PAM Solutions’ Benefits

Focusing on enhancing IT cybersecurity by alleviating risks associated with privileged access, PAM solutions provide a series of benefits, such as:

  • Mitigation of insider threats by ensuring that only authorized personnel can access critical systems and data.
  • Protection against external cyberattacks by making it more challenging for attackers to compromise sensitive systems.
  • Audit support by providing detailed reports to document compliance.
  • Reduction of the attack surface and limiting the potential impact of security breaches.

 

What are the key differences between Secure Remote Access (SRA) and Privilege Access Management (PAM) solutions?

Both solutions are versatile tools addressing a broad variety of scenarios. Still, PAM solutions’ use cases are all centered around managing, securing, and monitoring privileged access within an organization. In contrast, SRA solutions’ use cases are more widely related to remote access, security, compliance, and business continuity.

While PAM solutions concentrate on controlling the accounts’ privileges within the IT environment, SRA solutions emphasize secure authentication and focus on providing remote connectivity to access an organization’s IT and OT network or specific resources – including industrial control systems (ICS) and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems used in sectors like manufacturing, energy, utilities, and critical infrastructure.

PAM primarily deals with administrators and individuals who need elevated access rights. On the other hand, SRA targets a broader user base, including regular employees, contractors, remote workers, suppliers, and partners – such as machine vendors who need to connect to the organization’s network for collaboration, support, or service delivery.

To sum up: Which solution would better fit your organization?

While both secure remote access solutions and privilege access management solutions are essential components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, they fulfill diverse goals and address distinct aspects of security. Therefore, they are not directly comparable in terms of superiority; rather, they complement each other within a holistic cybersecurity approach.

That’s why larger organizations often use both SRA and PAM solutions to ensure robust security.

The choice between the two solution types will depend on a number of factors related to your specific organizational needs and objectives, as well as your budget and resources.

 

 

If your organization’s primary concern is enabling secure remote access to IT and OT equipment for a distributed workforce and ensuring business continuity, an SRA solution would be the best choice. On the other hand, if you want to secure and control privileged access within a complex IT infrastructure, you should consider a PAM system.

Another crucial consideration to keep in mind when choosing which solution type to explore is your available financial allocation and support capabilities. PAM solutions are commonly more expensive, require longer implementation times, and more resources and expertise for deployment and ongoing management.

Ultimately, you should assess your priorities and unique circumstances to determine which one is more suitable for your organization.

Would you like to understand if a secure remote access solution is the right choice for your business? Check out our guide to make the selection as easy as possible and get insights on how to best approach each step of the buying process.

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