Multiple studies have shown that the majority of data breaches in enterprise organizations are the result of misused or compromised credentials. Firewalls and software solutions only get you so far if your employees and vendors aren’t protecting their access credentials or if old credentials are still active on the system.
And this isn’t a problem from the past. Just this year, Marriott reported a data breach that exposed the personal information of 5.2 million guests. It’s the third such hack they suffered in an 18 month period, and this one was due to the theft of employee credentials from a franchise location. A similar hack was reported in October that used Vendor credentials to access employee information.
We don’t always know the specific means by which hackers gain access to employee credentials, but it’s become a recurring issue in large organizations that are the target of such attacks. Employees are human and humans make mistakes. They click on phishing links, download malware, and visit infected websites via popup ads. And when they do, hackers can gain access to their login credentials and access company information.
Advanced protections are being explored to address these issues – including AI systems that analyze user behavior. But the simplest initial response remains to address Active Directory inefficiencies, and implement new security measures through upgrades to key technologies used to protect user accounts.
Right now, many of your users likely have more access privileges than they strictly need and compromise of those credentials can have an outsized impact on your organization. With the right optimization efforts, you create an added layer of security to protect against ransomware, hacking, phishing, and other malware attacks that could result from a compromise.
The days of a closely guarded intranet that cannot be accessed from outside the physical premises are largely gone. Cloud computing and mobility greatly increase productivity, but they open up your accounts to access from anywhere if the system in place to protect them are not robust enough.
If you’re currently operating on Microsoft Exchange, migration to O365 offers a number of clear benefits that can be supported by further security improvements.
Employees are able to work from anywhere, which in the current pandemic-impacted world, is increasingly important. Whether required to work from home or just in supporting everyday mobility, O365 offers improved collaboration and reduces infrastructure footprint by moving key operations to the cloud – which in turn reduces capital costs.
Users have access to the most current up to date applications and are therefore more productive and reliable in their duties than with dated technology.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of account compromise is to implement a multi-factor authentication (MFA) system. Such a system requires a secondary verification when someone logins to an account, often through a mobile device via SMS or a custom application.
MFA is effective because it provides the business with that second layer of identification verification, decreasing the likelihood that an attacker can impersonate a user and gain access to a computer. Other protections like lost password questions, or email verification can often be circumvented if enough information is taken from a user. An SMS message, however, is far more difficult to get around.
At the same time, it provides the business with secure access to corporate applications, data, documents, and back-office systems from any device or location without putting that information at risk. It’s universal protection that works in any location. At the same time, users can reset their own passwords more readily, reducing the burden on the helpdesk to manage basic security procedures.
Single Sign-On Protection
While MFA adds an effective extra layer to every login, it can have an impact on efficiency if users have multiple logins that each require authentication multiple times per day.
Single sign-on addresses this by consolidating login access to a single password. The result is reduced password fatigue, a better overall user experience, and increased speed and efficiency in user provisioning. When a password needs to be changed, the user can make a single update instead of submitting half a dozen requests to the help desk.
Most importantly, from a security perspective, single sign-on reduces the number of accounts that can be accessed by a third party. With fewer accounts to track, provision, and manage, there are fewer attack vectors, and more robust security controls can be implemented where they are needed.
Addressing the Major Security Risks Faced in Most Companies
The number of data breaches rose consistently from 2011 to 2017 and remained near an all-time high of 1,473 breaches exposing 164.68 million records in 2019. While the most widely publicized of these breaches are those that expose user information, there are hundreds more that target sensitive company information that can be ransomed or released to the public. The impact this can have on your organization is tremendous and requires a clear, focused approach to Systems and Identity Services. As a first step, this can have a huge impact on closing off the easiest and most commonly used route for cyber attackers to access your data.
Learn more about the importance of securing your active directory and identity services in our eBook, How to Secure Your Active Directory and Identity Verification Systems.