Maintain Your Team’s User Experience Without Sacrificing Your Organization’s Cybersecurity?

Balancing user convenience with organizational cybersecurity is a tall order — do you know how to seamlessly integrate powerful cybersecurity measures into your staff’s day-to-day worklife?

Managing strong and complex passwords may sound easy in theory, but in reality, most users opt for easy-to-remember passwords instead. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a great way to overcome the users’ resistance to maintaining strong passwords, while still ensuring adequate standards of cybersecurity.

Though most companies now employ much stronger cybersecurity than they did ten years ago, our society is still a long way away from being impenetrable. The increasing rate of cybercrime attacks (and the increasing degree of severity of those attacks) poses a serious and ongoing threat to businesses worldwide.

The reasons for this vary but the most logical line of thinking is that technology is evolving at a constant rate. With each new invention, we open another window that cybercriminals can climb through. Every new convenience we gain through technology is another potential vulnerability just waiting to be exploited.

While the application of a given cybersecurity solution here or there on an ad-hoc basis can help increase defensive capabilities, this piecemeal approach is generally insufficient. That’s why forward-looking companies are implementing a “zero trust” cybersecurity culture.

Zero Trust Cybersecurity 101

The zero-trust approach to cybercrime assumes that every aspect is a potential vulnerability until it can be confirmed otherwise. That means instead of simply investing in a strong firewall and antivirus, and assuming you’re protected, every part of your IT environment and every user trying to access it is assessed for its security.

It’s important for business owners to understand that every potential part of their network is a target. Given the overall connected nature of the systems, comprising one part can give the cybercriminals control over the entire environment.

Three fundamental components of zero trust cybersecurity include:

  • Verify And Validate: Network users are continuously validated and verified in real-time, even when they’re operating from within the network. This ensures that unattended machines, open ports, or misassigned administrator rights cannot be taken advantage of.
  • Least-Privileged Access: The principle of “least privilege” is an important part of zero trust security. It ensures that every user is only given precisely the level of access they need to do their job. It’s like a cybersecurity equivalent of the intelligence concept, “need to know basis”.
  • Reduced Attack Surface: Organizations following a zero trust strategy must specify the most critical data and systems they use, and then defend them all together with a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. This is far more effective than ad-hoc cybersecurity, composed of multiple separate defenses.

A key aspect of zero trust cybersecurity is the ongoing validation of users. The fact is that simply entering a password during login isn’t enough to guarantee security. That’s why businesses need to go beyond passwords.

The Unfortunate Reality Of Password Security

Despite the fact that passwords are the most direct way to access a user’s private information, most passwords in use today are simply not strong or complex enough.

Passwords protect email accounts, banking information, private documents, administrator rights, and more — and yet, user after user and business after business continue to make critical errors when it comes to choosing and protecting their passwords.

A recent report showed that 86% of more than 2 million breached passwords were identical to passwords that had already been breached. Don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s all being exaggerated to get your attention. If anything, there are too many data breaches for the news to keep up with.

In the end, creating and using strong passwords can be frustrating — the more secure they are, the more difficult they are to remember. The more memorable they are, the greater threat they pose to the business.

What’s The Better Way To Approach Password Management?

MFA is a superior way to keep your data more secure — after all, it blocks 99.9% of identity-based attacks.

MFA requires the user to utilize two methods to confirm that they are the rightful account owner. There are three categories of information that can be used in this process:

  • Something you have: Includes a mobile phone, app, or generated code
  • Something you know: A family member’s name, city of birth, pin, or phrase
  • Something you are: Includes fingerprints and facial recognition

An MFA solution offers a range of key benefits to modern business which help to increase security without affecting the user experience:

  • Bring Your Own Device: In today’s modern business world, more and more employees prefer to do at least some of their work through their mobile devices, which can present a serious security risk. However, with an MFA solution, you can enroll new employee devices in minutes, given that there’s no need to install an endpoint agent.
  • Convenient Flexibility: An MFA solution won’t force you to apply the same security policies to every user in the company. Instead, you are given the capability to specify policies person by person or group by group.

How Does A Multi-Factor Authentication Solution Work?

  • User logs into the session with primary credentials
  • The session host validates credentials with Active Directory.
  • Then, it sends credential validation to the cloud via the login app.
  • The MFA client sends its secondary authentication to the user. User approves.
  • The MFA client sends approval back to the session host via the login app.
  • The user accesses their session very securely.

Though MFA does make it harder for the account owner to access the account, it also makes it more difficult for cyber thieves to learn your password. Their job becomes much tougher because they now need to do more than just hack your password. They’ll need personal information about the account owner.

With so many accounts being too easy to break into, hackers are more likely to just move on instead of trying to break through the multiple-factor authentication process.

MFA Doesn’t Mean You Can Overlook Password Security

Despite the fact that passwords are the most direct way to access a user’s private information, most passwords in use today are not considered to be strong or complex enough – and even if they are, they aren’t updated often enough.

Case in point: 57% of people who have already been scammed in phishing attacks still haven’t changed their passwords, and 71% of accounts are protected by passwords used on multiple websites.

Even with MFA, you need to be sure your passwords are strong and complex. Here are two tips for doing so:

  • Use Complex Passwords. Don’t be one of the 23 million account holders still using “123456”. Follow these guidelines to make sure your passwords are strong:
  • Length and Complexity: Keep in mind that the easier it is for you to remember a password, the easier it’ll be for a hacker to figure it out. That’s why short and simple passwords are so common – users worry about forgetting them, so they make them too easy to remember, which presents an easy target for hackers.
  • Numbers, Case, and Symbols: Another factor in the password’s complexity is whether or not it incorporates numbers, cases, and symbols. While it may be easier to remember a password that’s all lower-case letters, it’s important to mix in numbers, capitals, and symbols in order to increase the complexity.
  • Pattern and Sequences: Like the other common mistakes, many people use patterns as passwords in order to better remember them, but again, that makes the password really easy to guess. “abc123”, or the first row of letters on the keyboard, “qwerty”, etc., are extremely easy for hackers to guess.
  • Manage Your Passwords: You don’t have to worry about remembering complex passwords so long as you manage them properly:
  • Update Your Passwords: Change your passwords on a regular basis. It’s as simple as that, like spring cleaning.
  • Use A Password Manager: A password manager generates, keeps track of, and retrieves complex and long passwords for you to protect your vital online information. It also remembers your PINS, credit card numbers, and three-digit CVV codes if you choose this option. Plus, it provides answers to security questions for you. All of this is done with strong encryption that makes it difficult for hackers to decipher.

The Secret To MFA’s Popularity

If you’ve hesitated to enable MFA for your accounts because it seems too complicated or too fiddly for everyday use, you should know that the benefits greatly outstrip the perceived annoyance.

The protection that MFA adds allows you to use your passwords for a longer length of time between password resets, and in the event that your service provider is compromised and your email and password end up in an open database on the open web, you will have time to change your password before your individual account is compromised.

You may not need MFA for every account you use—but for your email accounts, financial services, and work-related accounts, if MFA is an option, you should enable it. If it’s not an option, you should ask yourself, and perhaps the service itself, why you would keep using a service that doesn’t offer an easy step to keep your data secure?

Need Expert Assistance Implementing An MFA Solution?

If you’re unsure about how to implement a multi-factor authentication solution, don’t try to handle it all on your own. ExcalTech will help you evaluate your password practices and security measures as a whole to make sure you’re not taking on any unnecessary risks.

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