Boundary vs. privileged access management
Privileged access management (PAM) tools secure access to critical systems by managing and monitoring access to privileged accounts. PAM assists an organization in reducing their attack surface in an attempt to mitigate damage caused from internal or external incidents. Traditionally, a focus is put on the management of privileged credentials, and the monitoring of sessions and commands that enable detection and response teams to respond to incidents.
Boundary enables many of the security controls traditionally filled by PAM tools. Boundary can manage network access to privileged systems and audit access. It can be used with credential management providers, like Vault, to manage access to privileged accounts and credentials.
Where Boundary differs from traditional PAM solutions is in its automation-friendly workflows. Boundary is instrumented programmatically via REST, CLI, and Terraform. It provides automation-friendly workflows for managing users and credentials, as well as the discovery and configuration of new services:
- Automated credential management: Boundary and Vault can create workflows with automated credential management in which user sessions are secured with single-use dynamic credentials that are injected into sessions such that secrets are never returned to users.
- Context-based access: When users' business context changes, you want to ensure their permissions reflect the new business context. As an example, on-call engineers might require different permissions than when they end their on-call shifts. Boundary's managed groups enable user permission workflows to be assigned dynamically based on identity provider MFA checks, group memberships, and other IDP-level context.
- Host discovery: Boundary's dynamic host catalogs are advanced workflows for automating the process of onboarding new or changed infrastructure resources and their connection information, and applying pre-configured security policies.
Can Boundary replace a PAM solution?
Yes, Boundary provides many of the security controls traditionally delivered by PAM tools. Boundary can also be used with an existing PAM tool, particularly the ones that emphasize agent-based security where Boundary's proxy-based security can be a natural complement.