CyberArk PAS Review

Gives us the security of all credentials in one place and lightens our administrative load

What is our primary use case?

We use CyberArk to manage our privileged accounts, our passwords for our critical infrastructure. We have a lot of root administrator level accounts and other application and node accounts that are critical to our business. We use CyberArk to keep those rotated, keep them secure, in an encrypted environment giving us a lot more control and auditing capability.

We are not planning to utilize CyberArk to secure infrastructure for applications running in the cloud because, in our particular business, we like to keep things in-house. Although we have a very small use case scenario where we have one application published to a cloud service, for the vast majority of our infrastructure, we keep it in-house and manage it ourselves.

In terms of utilizing CyberArk's secure application credentials or endpoints, I'd have to think through what CyberArk means by "endpoints," exactly. We do some application management right now. We're mostly doing more server-router, switch, node. And we have some custom vendor nodes that are not your normal off-the-shelf things, that we're trying to get under management right now. As we move along and become more secure, we'll probably do more and more of the application management like that.

How has it helped my organization?

It has given us a common environment where all of our critical infrastructure credentials can be stored. From the pure usability and administrative perspective, I can't imagine doing what we do without it. And we're a fairly small business. We don't have 10,000 servers or 5,000 systems to manage. Still, the smaller the business, the smaller the company, the smaller the number of support people you have. So we still end up with a lot of people having to do a lot of work. 

I would say the security, having all the credentials in one place, having a two-factor login to the system available to us, which we use, and then that administrative aspect of it, being able to lighten our administrative load, so once we hand over certain things to CyberArk, that administrative work is done by CyberArk and not by us anymore. It enables us to get a lot more done with a smaller crew.

The first thing that pops into my head is, when you're dealing with some old-school people who have been around our business for many, many decades, who are accustomed to writing down passwords on pieces of paper on their desk, getting those people off of the desktop and into an encrypted environment, that alone, is an enormous improvement.

We literally had people, just a few years ago, who would have pieces of paper written with everything - address, username, password - sitting in plain sight on their desktop that the janitor at night could come in and see laying on their desk. Just within the last few years, I've even seen higher-level people who have the little sticky note out on their desktops, on top of their screen, with credentials. It's all electronic but, still, you get to their desktop or you look over their shoulder and you see everything.

Going from that to having an encrypted environment, that alone was a huge improvement. Working with a lot of people who have been around the business for a long time, who have more of an old-school mentality, getting those credentials moved into a more secure environment and getting them rotated automatically, that's a huge improvement by itself.

What is most valuable?

The basic features are, themselves, highly useful. I was just saying to some CyberArk people that I came to understand fairly early on that CyberArk is not just an IT security or cybersecurity tool. It's also an administrator tool.

I had a fair number of systems where the passwords were not fully managed by CyberArk yet, and they were expiring every 30 or 45 days. I was able to get management turned on for those accounts. From an administrator perspective, I didn't have to go back into those systems and manually change those passwords anymore. CyberArk was taking that administrator task away from me and handling it, so it lightened the load on our administrative work.

It is a good security tool, but it's also a great administrator tool in that respect.

What needs improvement?

Things that they were speaking about, here at the Impact 2018 conference, are things that we've already been looking it. They have been on our radar, things like OPM. We're beginning to use PSMP a little bit ourselves. We already have that implemented, but we haven't been using it a lot. The number one thing might be OPM, that we're looking at, that we think might help us in our business, but we haven't implemented them yet.

There are so many options that are currently available, and there are already efforts, projects within CyberArk, that they're working on right now, that I haven't really had time to think beyond what they're already offering. There are so many things that they have that we're not using yet, that we haven't licensed yet. There is a lot of stuff out there that we could take on that we haven't yet for various reasons, including budgeting.

It's always the need to do a cost-benefit and then doing a business case to management and convincing them that it's something that would be good for us and that it's worth spending the money on.

Right now, it's just trying to implement what's out there and use some of those tools that would give us the most bang for the buck.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is very, very good. We did have a minor incident. It could have been a major incident. The customer support people were spot on in getting us back in order pretty quickly. I think it's a little bug in the version that we're at. That's one of the reasons we need to upgrade right now. We're just trying to decide which version we want to upgrade to before we pull the trigger.

Beyond that, as far as stability and reliability, there really haven't been any major issues. We've had one little incident. We got it mitigated within a very short amount of time thanks to, on that day, really good, quick tech support from CyberArk. And beyond that, it's been a very stable and reliable system. There hasn't been any other downtime that I can point to and say it was CyberArk's fault.

I painted myself into the corner a couple of times, and had to jump through some hoops to get myself back out; those were my fault, a lack of experience.

For the most part, over the two and a half years we've used it, we've just had that one little incident that caused us a little bit of concern. Like I said, it was mitigated very quickly and didn't cause a huge storm within the company and didn't have a huge impact that particular day, fortunately.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't scaled it up much since we took it on. From everything I've seen, I think scalability should be excellent. You can spin up as many component servers as you need to get the job done. Obviously, at some point, licensing is going to come into that. I don't see how scalability would be any kind of problem for anyone. I think you can make it as big or as little as you need it to be.

How are customer service and technical support?

This is coming from a person who spent two-and-a-half years in customer support, so I do have a certain amount of empathy towards customer support people and the challenges they deal with. It depends on who you get on the other end of the phone. When you call in, you may get the young lady that I got the day we had that major issue. She very quickly found exactly what we needed to do and told us how to do it, and we got the problem settled.

I've had other situations on much more minor issues, like how to configure this or how to make that work and I haven't had as good an experience on all of those. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I think it depends more on who you get rather than on the company in general. Some support reps are always going to be better than others.

I've only had a very small number of experiences with them. When I have an issue like that, I don't just open up a ticket and then leave it alone until they get back with me. I usually go back and continue to dig for a solution. About half the time, I find my own solution anyway. But I don't think it was commonly the case that they were not attempting to get back with me.

Sometimes they didn't always offer, for the less critical issues perhaps, a quick, easy, how-to-implement it solution. This is probably a common thing, but they do ask for a lot of log files, a lot of information. They ask you to provide a lot of information to them before they're willing to give you anything at all upfront. It would be nice if they did a little bit of more give and take upfront of, "Well, why don't you try one or two or three of these common sense things, the first things that pop up on the radar on this type of issue, and see if any of them help? And we'll take the information that you gather and we'll go in the meantime." 

Instead of throwing it all in your lap to go and collect a whole huge collection of data to bring them before they give you anything, perhaps it would be better if they were a little more give-and-take upfront of, "Why don't you try these couple of things while we take your log files and stuff and go research them?" A little bit of that might be more helpful.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were using KeePass before we got CyberArk, and I can't imagine trying to manage the number of accounts and credentials we have today, and the number of systems, with something like KeePass. It would be a nightmare.

We switched because of the scale of where we were going. All of our infrastructure passwords, prior to three-and-a-half years ago, were decentralized. The people who worked on a particular system managed the passwords for that system in their own particular way. There was no across-the-board system. There was no standard regarding these having to be encrypted versus those. Everybody came up with their own way of handling that. We tried to implement some standards during the years leading up, but they were not mandatory. So people ended up just doing what they wanted to do.

Now, with CyberArk, there is a mandate from upper management that we all use this tool. All the credentials go into it and they are all encrypted. Eventually, everything, 100 percent or as near 100 percent as we can get it, will be under full management.

In terms of criteria for selecting a vendor, from my perspective, I like to be able to find someone who can speak to me on a somewhat technical level and help me work through technical issues. But I also want them to give me a vision of things, the roadmap or other products and other things that are available, without getting too much of a marketing pitchor sales pitch. I don't mind a little bit of that. I know that's important. But at the same time, I don't just want a slick sales presentation. I want to know the technical end of how does this really work? I want to be able to have some vision as to how we might implement that. Not just what it can do for us, but how would we actually go through the machinery, go through the work, to make it work for us.

It's always good to have a vendor that can provide resources, that can speak to someone like me on a technical level, and that can help me work through issues, whether it's lack of experience or just lack of knowledge in a certain area; a vendor that can help me work through some of those situations and get me to where I need to be.

How was the initial setup?

I went through the proof of concept and then I also went through the initial install of our infrastructure. For our company, I've probably done 80 to 90 percent of the work in CyberArk myself.

The implementation was fairly straightforward. We had a really good implementation engineer. He did a really good job. Of course, every individual brings his own kind of approach to things. They give you insight and then you run into someone else that gives you a little different perspective. It surprised me how straightforward some of the setup is. I've experienced some things since then that lead me to think it is something that CyberArk is constantly improving on: How to implement new installs or upgrades and make them better and easier.

For instance, there was one system that, when we first installed in 2016, we were told upfront that this was not an easy system to spin up and get working. We had made an attempt at it and failed. A year later, I installed it by myself from the documentation and it went as smoothly as could be, no problems. They had improved it over that year to the point where just about anybody could do it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

The team that I'm on, we weren't leading up the investigative part. Our security group did that. They're the ones who brought CyberArk to us and said, "This is the one we're going to go with." There was actually another entity within our corporate parent company that had already been using it for about nine months before we did. We adopted it from there. Since then, another entity has adopted it as well.

What other advice do I have?

One big piece of advice I would give is: Don't ignore user acceptance. If you want people to use CyberArk, you have to pay attention to user acceptance. If your users hate it, then your entire experience is going to be an uphill battle, when you're trying to get people to actually use the tool. It doesn't matter how good the tool is, it doesn't matter how well it does password management. It doesn't matter how well it does all these other things. If your users hate it, you're going to have an uphill struggle with the people that you need to be on your side. You've got to get user acceptance right.

Now, you can't completely sacrifice all those other things just for user acceptance, I'm not saying that. But you have got to keep user acceptance up there, alongside everything else. It's got to be a hand-in-hand thing as you go along, so don't ignore user acceptance. Spend some time doing it.

I tend to shy away from giving anybody a 10 out of 10. I would rate it at about eight out of 10, a pretty high rating. Anything could be improved, and certainly, CyberArk is not immune to that. But I think it's a good tool.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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author avatarRajiv Shah

I was using Sailpoint, didn't use CyberArk. I review some demo on youtube and i was really into it
It helps to manage all the privileged account with in your organization with automatic password management, access control, dual control(having two set of controls), video recordings this is really great.

author avatarAHMAD AL
Real User