The Importance of Permissions Auditing

permissions auditing

Auditing is a fundamental process that applies to many industries and use cases. The basic understanding of auditing as a process presents it as an examination of sorts that reviews a specific information category to ensure its validity and necessity.

One of many different targets for auditing as a process revolves around data permissions – checking whether permissions assigned to a specific file or folder are valid and justified. The process of auditing allows for a complete and detailed check to be performed when it comes to permissions in a specific system.

An excellent example of such a system is Linux – a well-known multi-user operating system that millions of customers work with on a regular basis. It can have several different permission-related statuses assigned to every single file in the system, and keeping track of these permissions is always a good idea for the sake of security.

Linux does have plenty of security-oriented features in it, but keeping track of unnecessary permissions would never hurt and may even close up a potential gateway for malicious actions. Linux has three main permissions groups that are user-based:

  • Group. These permissions only apply to the group that the file or directory is assigned to without affecting other users’ actions.
  • Owner. These permissions are only applicable to either the file or directory they were assigned to. They have no effect on other users or files.
  • All Users. These are permissions that are applicable to all users of the system. It is the most dangerous group of the three security-wise since it is also applicable to random users that may have malicious intent when it comes to the system’s content.

As for permissions themselves, Linux permissions can be separated in three types:

  • Read. Refers to the ability of a specific user to read the file’s contents.
  • Write. Represents the capability of the end user to modify an existing file or create a new one in the same directory.
  • Execute. A permission category that allows a specific user to execute a specific file in the directory.

Permissions in Linux can be viewed manually or using a dedicated command called auditd. This command is capable of monitoring simple file operations – read, write, or execute. The specific type of permission that has to be monitored can be set using the auditctl command. This simple combination of commands allows for the file permissions to be monitored on a small scale, but it is relatively difficult to do for large file volumes.

This is not the only use case for a permissions audit, either. Another possible location for this is for various platforms and applications such as Microsoft 365, OneDrive, and SharePoint. The main goal of a permission audit in this example is very similar – to create a categorized list of permissions assigned to specific users or accounts. That way, a “permissions map” of sorts can be created, offering a convenient visual representation of your company’s permissions situation.

Performing an audit of SharePoint permissions is one of many ways to decrease the overall data risk for the system. It can be a great gateway towards identifying vulnerable areas in the system’s security while also pointing out potential issues with access control. 

Every single employee who has access to sensitive data without a good reason for it can be considered a risk to the company. The same logic applies to external applications that have access to more data than it needs. Finding and mitigating these kinds of issues is one of the primary goals of permissions auditing.

Data migration can be the reason for unwanted permissions within the system, such as the migration to SharePoint Server from M365. Since permissions have to be replicated in your new environment, it is wise to have a complete picture of your current situation permissions-wise. Remediating unwanted access permissions that were forgotten for some reason can also be done after performing the permissions audit.

The main problem here is identifying permissions that every single user of the system has for every single file. The sheer volume of data that an average company deals with on a regular basis is truly massive. Keeping track of all the permissions assigned within the company can be very daunting if performed by hand. Luckily, plenty of third-party solutions can be used to simplify this process.

NC Protect is one such solution. It can manage and audit permissions for both SharePoint and M365, creating an entire map made of permissions for your system. It can identify which user has access to what kind of content, making it easier to understand who has too many permissions assigned to them.

There are multiple parameters that NC Protect’s permissions map (with site access scan) can offer, no matter if it is run manually or scheduled to run automatically. This includes permissions themselves, their source, an audit log for tracking access of every user to specific files, and more.

Permission auditing is a vital task that cannot be ignored for the sake of saving money or resources. It needs utmost attention to ensure no data breaches or insider threats may happen. NC Protect is a great tool for assisting with this specific task.