Programmers have complex jobs that involve writing code — as well as testing, developing, and debugging software. Admin rights allow programmers to have extensive access to everything they need to do their jobs. But do they really need these rights?

Programmers need admin rights because these allow them to work efficiently without constantly needing to bother IT for access. However, it depends on the organization. Allowing programmers to have admin rights also brings with it cybersecurity and malware risks.

Read on to find out whether programmers should have admin rights and the risks involved in giving them these rights. If your company doesn’t have programmers or a dedicated IT department, no worries: I’ll also tackle granting non-IT employees admin rights as well.

What Are the Benefits of Giving Programmers Admin Rights?

Admin (or administrator) rights allow the user to create and delete files, modify items, and change the system settings. Although admin rights allow programmers to work unimpeded, does that necessarily mean they should have them?

Programmers should have admin rights because it frees up the IT department’s time and energy for other important tasks. Programmers need local admin rights to perform their jobs efficiently.

I’ll discuss these points in more detail below:

Admin Rights Allow Programmers To Work Efficiently

A programmer’s primary role is to write code and maintain organizational software and hardware systems. To perform these tasks optimally, they need admin rights.

It’s in the company’s best interests to grant programmers local admin rights because these allow them to:

  • Install new software
  • Install and update antivirus protection
  • Install drivers
  • Test software
  • Edit a software program’s coding
  • Perform system or software updates
  • Install extensions
  • Add new user accounts
  • Gain access to machines during network outages
  • Create applications
  • Change network settings

Admin Rights for Programmers Free Up IT

If a company doesn’t allow its programmers to have admin rights, they’d need to contact the IT department multiple times a day to gain access to restricted domains. In most cases, this involves submitting a ticket. Multiple tickets could easily add up to a large backlog, preventing the IT department from attending to day-to-day user issues and decreasing their productivity.

This would be highly frustrating, a waste of time, and inconvenient for the IT department, which is typically one of an organization’s busiest departments.

What Are the Risks of Giving Programmers Admin Rights?

The risks of giving programmers admin rights include cybersecurity and copyright breaches, as well as leaking confidential or sensitive information. These leave the company vulnerable to hackers and unscrupulous third parties. Moreover, inexperienced programmers can cause a system malfunction.

I’ll explain these risks in more detail below:

Cybersecurity Breaches

Programmers with increased administrative rights have the authority to install, modify, or delete files and software. Unfortunately, if an admin account is hacked, the company may become vulnerable to malware or having their important files or data deleted.

Cybercriminals sometimes hack into admin accounts and impersonate other company user accounts. With admin rights, they can run malicious coding on the company’s machines without their users’ knowledge.

If the cybersecurity breach is severe enough, hackers can restrict access or delete the company’s software and data and demand a ransom in exchange for returning the system to normal.

Although most companies have backup servers, cleaning up after a hacking or malware attack can be time-consuming and result in a major loss of productivity.

Copyright Breaches

When programmers have admin rights, they can easily copy software and copyrighted company documents and files. Fortunately, this isn’t common, but be aware that granting an employee admin rights opens up this risk. Some unscrupulous programmers have sold their company’s confidential data sold to competitors.

Confidential Information Leaks

Security companies, government organizations, and private banks work with highly confidential and sensitive information. Granting programmers admin rights gives them access to this highly sensitive information, increasing the risk of information leaks.

Every company has sensitive client or pricing information, but the risks vary from organization to organization. Some companies don’t want to risk granting programmers admin rights.

In such cases, the organization might give the programmer sanitized data to help them perform necessary tasks. Alternatively, the programmers could be given power user access. This allows the programmer to access restricted domains without potentially compromising client and organizational confidentiality.

However, these scenarios are rare, and most companies ask their programmers to sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure that sensitive company information remains confidential.

Hackers can easily penetrate a system if an admin account is compromised without a robust password or system security.

System Malfunctioning

Most programmers are highly skilled, knowledgeable, and ethical professionals who’d never deliberately cause a company-wide system to crash. However, if you employ an inexperienced or unqualified programmer, they may inadvertently delete system files (or an operating system as a whole), causing machines to crash.

How To Mitigate the Risk of Granting Programmers Admin Rights

You can mitigate the risk of granting programmers admin rights by having only one admin account, a separate development platform, and strong password protections. You can also provide virtual machines for programmers or only grant essential admin access.

I’ll explain these mitigation strategies in more detail below:

Have Only One Admin Account

Having only one admin account might not be practical in large organizations, but it can decrease cybersecurity breaches in smaller companies. Some organizations require their programmers to use regular and restricted access accounts for day-to-day tasks. When the programmers need access to local admin rights, they can log into the common admin account after providing a compelling reason.

Have a Separate Development Platform

If you’re worried about cybersecurity breaches in your company’s confidential information, you might consider having a separate development platform. This allows your programmers to use the secure development program for updates, installations, and modifications and the regular platform for day-to-day tasks.

Have Strong Password Protection

Having strong password protection on your admin account helps protect it from cyber attacks and hacking. This involves using separate passwords for each local admin account. Using the same passwords for your admin accounts makes life easier, but it compromises organizational digital security.

Instead, try and make each admin password completely different and complicated (by using unique symbols and numbers, for example). Having similar passwords makes them easy for hackers to guess.

Also, ensure you change your admin accounts’ passwords regularly and never store them on emails or spreadsheets to solidify your password protection.

Provide Virtual Machines for Programmers

Providing virtual machines for programmers can be costly, inconvenient, and time-consuming, as you need to manage an extra machine. However, it can be worth it if you consider how much a virtual machine can decrease your risk of a cyber breach.

You can connect a virtual machine to a test domain so the programmer can perform their testing and coding functions independently of the organization’s main system.

You could also consider rotating admin access to protect your company from data breaches.

Only Allow Essential Admin Access

Suppose you want to strike the perfect balance between keeping your company’s network safe and still allowing your programmers to do their jobs efficiently. In that case, you might consider allowing them essential admin access only.

An excellent way to do this is to consult with your programmers to understand which admin access elements are essential for their work. By allowing programmers to have only the most vital admin access, you help minimize your company’s risk of a cyber attack, and you allow your programmers to work productively.

When Should You Give Regular Employees Admin Rights?

It makes sense that programmers should be given admin rights. But what about regular employees? Should they be given admin rights?

You should only give employees admin rights if you do not have a programmer or dedicated IT department to run software updates and installations on employee machines. However, you need to trust the employee to install the updates responsibly and safely.

Read further for an in-depth explanation of the instances in which you might grant employees admin rights:

You Don’t Have a Dedicated IT Department

Startups or small businesses with only a few employees may have less than five company computers. Although they may share a common WiFi system, the computers might not be connected on a company-wide intranet.

In such cases, it makes sense to grant each employee admin rights to their computers, and the responsibility for:

  • Installing and updating antivirus software
  • Performing software updates
  • Downloading new apps or software
  • Installing new hardware

You might consider allowing your employees permanent admin access, or you could grant them temporary access when they need to modify, download or delete software.

You Trust the Employee

Granting admin rights to an employee is only responsible if you trust the employee. If you’re confident that the employee understands how to install, modify, and delete software and files correctly, you might grant them admin rights if you don’t have a dedicated programmer or IT administrator.

Some small companies give only one non-IT-focused employee admin rights, and this is a sensible idea. Responsible employees won’t rearrange, delete or install new files and folders, and they also won’t adjust the settings so that the machine doesn’t work correctly.

Furthermore, knowledgeable and responsible employees will do their best not to download software that could have a virus.

Conclusion

Most organizations grant admin rights to programmers because this allows them to have access to restricted domains, which are essential for the programmer’s duties.

However, granting admin rights to programmers comes with various risks, including:

  • Compromising the organization’s cybersecurity
  • Exposing the system to malware
  • Accidentally modifying or deleting files

Fortunately, you can mitigate this risk by having only one admin account, strong passwords, and a separate development platform.

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