Third of IT admins admit snooping with privileged passwords

Power and anonymity equals risky business, says password management vendor.

One in three IT administrators say they or one of their colleagues have used top-level admin passwords to pry into confidential or sensitive information at their workplace, according to a survey by a password-management vendor.

Nearly half also confessed that they have poked around systems for information not relevant to their jobs.

"We asked these questions last year, too," said Adam Bosnian, vice president of product strategy and sales for Cyber-Ark, a Newton, Mass.-based maker of password file security management software. "And we got similar results. So on one hand, the results weren't surprising. What was surprising initially -- and this time around, too -- is that people admit to it."

Last month, Cyber-Ark polled approximately 300 senior IT professionals at a London security conference and trade show, asking them a dozen questions about their password practices. The majority of those surveyed said they work for companies with more than 1,000 employees.

The fact that a third acknowledged they had abused an admin password to access out-of-bounds information shouldn't surprise anyone, said Bosnian. "Everyone thinks that IT administrators are the trusted ones, and it's all the rest that we need to worry about. But admin passwords not only give administrators a lot of power, they also provide a lot of anonymity."

That combination is too tempting for some to fight, and would explain the high number of respondents who said that they had poked into places they didn't belong, Bosnia added. "People think, 'I feel a little bit safer' when they're using an admin password. There could be hundreds of people with access to that password."

Cyber-Ark's survey also asked IT workers to select three things they'd try to take with them if they were told they would be fired the next day. The top two vote-getters: customer database (35%) and a list of all privileged passwords (31%). "That's not really surprising either, is it?" said Bosnian. "The customer database is one of the company's most valuable assets."

The poll also revealed behavior that wouldn't make any security best practices lists. Almost a third -- 28% -- of the IT professionals polled said that they'd written privileged passwords on paper, while nearly one in ten admitted that they never changed critical passwords.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Show Comments





Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?