What Is Just-in-Time Access and Why Does It Matter?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how just-in-time access can help businesses mitigate risks associated with prolonged access privileges.

[Featured image] A cybersecurity expert meets with colleagues and recommends their organization implements just-in-time access.

Picture a digital keycard system deployed in a high-security facility. Rather than offering persistent access, the keycard facilitates entry for a predetermined period and purpose. 

Just-in-time (JIT) access in cybersecurity mirrors the workings of this same keycard. 

When integrated into firms' identity and access management (IAM) or privileged access management (PAM) strategies, JIT access ensures privileged access is available solely to authorized professionals when necessary.

Read on to gain deeper insight into JIT access, including why it's important, types of JIT access, pros and cons, and best practices for implementing this security measure.   

Read more: 5 Cybersecurity Career Paths (and How to Get Started)

What is JIT access? 

Just-in-time access prevents unrestricted access to critical or sensitive accounts and digital resources. The approach builds on the zero-trust framework that requires continuous authentication of users, devices, and applications in and outside a company's network.

Is JIT provisioning the same as JIT access?

Yes. Often used interchangeably, JIT access and JIT provisioning mean the same. JIT access may also be referred to as just-in-time privileged access management (JITPAM). 


Why is JIT access important to businesses?

Privileged accounts, when exploited by bad actors, pose a heightened risk to the overall security stance of an organization. It helps deny permanent access to accounts and systems as a defense mechanism. Essentially, JIT access narrows the timeframe available for infiltrators to exploit vulnerabilities within a firm’s internal systems.

Core elements of JIT access systems

The makeup of JIT access systems can vary mainly between firms and vendors, but most include the following as their key components: 

  • Rules and policies: Access rules and policies outline the conditions for users’ access to select resources based on a firm’s security standards and requirements.

  • Identity verification: The built-in IAM system authenticates a user’s identity, ensuring the role is eligible for temporary access. 

  • Consent or approval protocol: Following identity verification, an authorized entity checks if the access request conforms to business needs and pre-established security policies. The protocol then grants or cancels access accordingly. 

  • Time tokens: If the user gets access, an access token with a preset time gets allotted. Once the access period concludes, the token expires, prompting the system to negate the privileged user access.

  • Surveillance: Monitoring tools generate detailed records, noting every instance of user access, including time stamps, to streamline auditing processes. Furthermore, the tools aid in backtracking security incidents. 

Read more: What Is Access Control?

JIT access systems’ workflow

At any given point, a JIT access system takes three things into account—location (where a user will utilize a privilege), action (what a user will do with the privilege), and time (for how long the privilege will be available). Technically, here is how it works: 

  1. A user initiates a request for privileged access to a resource such as a network or virtual machine.

  2. The request now undergoes an approval process that is typically automated for efficiency. If not, an administrator with the requisite authority manually approves or rejects the privileged access request.

  3. If approved, the user gains the necessary level of privilege tailored for the task at hand. Note that the access is temporary and remains active for the duration needed to complete the designated task.

  4. Once the user concludes their task and logs out, the access privilege automatically expires, or the account is temporarily deactivated until the next instance.

Types of JIT access

The JIT access comes in three variants: Temporary access elevation, broker and remove access, and ephemeral access. Learn more about each below:

1. Temporary access elevation

A straightforward just-in-time access approach, temporary access elevation increments a user's access privileges to perform a particular task. Upon task completion, the user regains regular access level. Also known as privilege elevation, this phenomenon is well-suited for tasks that mandate high access privileges but occur infrequently.

2. Broker and remove access

The broker-and-remove or justification-based approach involves using a central vault for managing user credentials. This type of JIT access variant, ideal for high-risk resources, mandates a user to provide reasons for needing privileged access. If a just reason is given, the user can connect to the intended resource with their privileged access, which is withdrawn after task execution. 

3. Ephemeral access

The ephemeral access allows for a dynamic, one-time account in real-time, offering temporary privileges for a brief interval. Post task completion, the account automatically becomes inactive. An ephemeral account is a safer option when third-party users need access to a firm’s critical resources.

Pros and cons of JIT access

Almost every security system has its advantages and drawbacks. Below is an overview of the perks as well as cons of using a JIT access system.


Besides improved security, the merits of adopting JIT access include:

  • Reduced administration overhead: Simplifying access workflows is a time-saving measure for administrators. Automated activation and deactivation of privileges through JIT access minimizes burnout for admins across departments. 

  • Streamlined auditing: Auditors can review JIT access to verify that each instance of access is in line with the specific needs and policies of an organization, promoting transparency and accountability.


Certain challenges to incorporating JIT access as a safety mechanism include:

  • Difficulty integrating: When JIT access doesn’t integrate harmoniously with firms’ legacy systems, it can result in friction and incompatibility, disrupting existing workflows.

  • Comprehensive training: Lack of proper user and administration training can defeat the purpose of JIT access.  

Best practices for implementing JIT access

If you are contemplating JIT access implementation or configuration, the following tips can guide you along the way: 

Identify critical assets 

As a foundational step, thoroughly examine the assets within your network, identifying those that play a crucial role in your organization's operations. Be sure to also look for potential vulnerabilities associated with each asset. This assessment aids in adapting security measures accordingly, allowing for an efficient implementation of JIT access.

Establish granular access policies

Access policies offer structure to your JIT access model. For precision, consider combining role-based access control (RBAC) with attribute-based access control (ABAC) policies. RBAC assigns access based on predetermined roles, while ABAC relies on a combination of attributes, such as demographics, date, time of access, and more, to connect users with the necessary resources. The dual approach allows you to accurately define users' tasks and actions, strengthening your access control strategy.

Select the right infrastructure 

Look through the JIT access functionality offered by various IAM solutions. Evaluate how well each solution aligns with the JIT access approach you intend to implement. The right tools and technology will seamlessly integrate with your organization's existing security infrastructure. 

Get started with Coursera.

Dealing with threats will require knowing them better. Strengthen your understanding of cyber threats with the Play It Safe: Manage Security Risks course on Coursera. Designed for beginners, this four-module course by Google will introduce you to the frameworks and controls required for enterprise-grade cybersecurity.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.