In the digital age, authentication is critical to a strong security strategy. What are the challenges of user authentication?
In the digital age, authentication is critical to a strong security strategy. With nearly every aspect of daily life and business taking place online, the added convenience also comes with additional risks. Information privacy, data sovereignty, and financial security are top priorities for organizations around the world—if not, they should be.
As cloud adoption grows exponentially, businesses are scrambling to revise their security policies to keep their data and end users safe. Cybercriminals continue to evolve their strategies for exploiting vulnerabilities, developing new means to execute DDoS attacks, hacking, and fraud for financial gain or disruption.
In the post-pandemic business environment, many businesses adopt remote or hybrid working models, bringing new security and data protection challenges. End users need access to business networks and applications from mobile workspaces. Organizations have had to adapt workforce policies and security policies to meet end-user needs for a consistent experience and business needs for privacy and security.
How can organizations maintain high security standards when employees access critical systems and data from private devices? User authentication seems easy, but there are some inherent challenges to be aware of.
Conceptually, user authentication is explicit. This is the process of authenticating end users to ensure secure access to networks, applications and accounts. Authenticating users is the first line of defense against malicious cybercriminals.
There are three common methods of user authentication:
- Password protected login Set parameters for login credentials, including password length, special characters, or other required elements.
- Trusted device login Require the end user to have a physical token, such as a card or USB-connected device, to authenticate the user in the presence of the device to prove identity.
- Biometric Login Include things that are unique to the user, such as fingerprint scans, facial recognition, voice recognition, or other means.
Each of these methods adds a layer of security to user access. But if things were that simple, cybercrime wouldn’t be such a lucrative business. Cybercriminals can reportedly penetrate 93 percent of a company’s network at the perimeter, putting access to valuable data and systems at risk.
As grim as this may sound, it’s a cautionary tale, not an inevitable outcome. Organizations that understand user authentication challenges can better mitigate risk and protect their assets.
User Authentication Challenge
Overall, to stay ahead of cybercriminals, security professionals and organizations must prioritize security and understand the threat landscape. Below, we’ll cover some of the key user authentication challenges.
end user needs
Previously, end users connected to the corporate network from a corporate physical office, making it easier to monitor activity. In today’s modern workplace, many users now use remote or hybrid work models, adding a layer of complexity to user needs.
Users not only need to access the network, but also view, modify and share files internally and with third parties. Working remotely can lead to less confidence in user effectiveness, leading companies to strengthen security practices. Organizations must strike a balance between strong security and user experience.
Password Strength and 2FA
User passwords are an ongoing challenge as organizations want to ensure a high level of security and users need easy-to-remember and secure passwords. More than half of end users use the same password for multiple accounts, including personal and business access. According to reports, 80% of data breaches are due to poor password security.
Businesses often suggest password formats, and passwords should be hard to crack, which isn’t a best-kept secret.Unfortunately, users usually go the easy way with this mindset “This can’t happen to me”…until it happens. Many organizations want to reduce this risk by educating end users about password security and recommending a secure password manager like LastPass or KeePass, which also helps users choose strong credentials.
Many organizations require the use of two-factor authentication (2FA) methods as an additional layer of security. Left to their own devices, most users will not opt for 2FA on their own. End users often see 2FA as an added annoyance to the login process.
Another cybercrime method popular with bad actors is SMS spoofing. Recognizing that 2FA attempts to protect user credentials, cybercriminals have developed ways to send fake SMS messages to gain access.
Hackers send text messages to user targets to make them appear to be from a trusted source. These SMS messages contain a link and a request for sensitive information. Unwitting employees click on links, share information, and find themselves — and your data — at risk.
SMS spoofing is primarily a user error problem, requiring companies to make an effort to educate employees about this method. Make sure you are not sending text messages to request information and keep your users informed of the risk.
If SMS is in any way part of your business practice, implement message signing. Prompt your users not to reply to incoming text messages or calls and to call back. SMS scammers often use numbers they don’t own; calling them will lead to the real bearer.
Provisioning and de-provisioning
Another common risk arises from logins that are no longer relevant or used. Organizations must have a well-defined workflow to deprovision all logins when employees leave the company. Expired and abandoned logins are not monitored and maintained by any end user, so they can be easily abused without detection.
Evolution of security threats
As with any security measure, staying ahead of criminals is critical. The threat landscape is constantly changing as cybercriminals devote time and energy to developing new attacks. “Authentication mechanisms provide an easy target for attackers, especially if they are fully exposed or exposed…” To mitigate advanced authentication-targeted attacks, consider a system that can monitor and analyze large volumes of API traffic API security solutions.
Stay ahead of cybercriminals
A strong security strategy requires you to understand the challenges of user authentication and potential points of security exploitation. Understanding these risks and building a security approach before threats emerge is critical.
About the author: Stephanie Shank. Stefanie has spent her career in a variety of capabilities and industries under the ‘high tech’ umbrella and is passionate about trends, challenges, solutions and stories in existing and emerging technologies. She’s a storyteller at heart, and she considers herself one of the lucky ones: someone who can make a living doing what she loves. Stefanie is a regular writer for Bora
Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook
(security affairs – hacking, authentication)