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Eight reasons to deploy multi-factor authentication

SMS Passcode : 19 February, 2015  (Special Report)
David Hald of SMS Passcode provide compelling reasons why Multi-Factor Authentication should be implemented for greater security
Eight reasons to deploy multi-factor authentication

IT administrators know that security is critical, particularly in light of the high-profile breaches making headlines recently. They have implemented all the standard security measures: raising a firewall, deploying encryption technology, installing antivirus software and running vulnerability tests from time to time. Admins see the stories about hackers breaching networks via stolen usernames and passwords and add “check security infrastructure yet again” to their ever-growing “to do” lists. That list includes many other critical technology functions that they must prioritise. IT managers sometimes figure that, since basic security structures are in place, they can move on to other action items. However, if they do not have multi-factor authentication in place, those other security measures may as well not exist.

It’s become a necessity to create an authentication strategy that protects the company’s platforms and users alike, reducing complexity while ensuring access and boosting the flexibility of remote workers.

Seamless Integration and Protection

Within a modern network environment, there are multiple third-party platforms, including remotely accessed cloud apps, that IT administrators must manage. While security is a top priority, it must be balanced with cost, convenience, interoperability, effectiveness and ease of use – many of which often take precedence over security depending on the moment’s needs. Therefore, the IT administrator must ensure that remote access works seamlessly and easily with every platform in the portfolio without breaking the budget.

This is precisely what multi-factor authentication does. It defends data against hacking and phishing attacks by confirming the user’s identity during the login process and can be seamlessly integrated into a number of third-party platforms used across the organization. Real-time, mobile-based methods of authenticating employees have proven to be a cost-effective way to significantly increase the level of security without requiring the user to learn a new authentication method for every application they try to access. A cross-platform approach, therefore, boosts user satisfaction and cuts the number of security applications the IT admin is required to manage.

Ease of Use, Ease of Installation Important

IT managers fight an ongoing battle against complexity. Every new upgraded system or module threatens to set off a chain reaction of tweaks and adjustments to processes that can irritate users and keep them offline. Since a streamlined authentication process keeps productivity (and morale) high, IT administrators should ensure that each new upgrade or addition affects access to critical programmes as little as possible.

Securing Remote Access

Remote access to critical business applications and data is enabling modern staff members to work from home or anywhere like never before. The IT department is responsible for facilitating the ability of the remote workforce to perform its functions from outside the office environment, which means its authentication strategy must make it as easy as possible to safely access business applications from anywhere, at any time.

By enabling administrators to adapt the level of support needed using contextual information, such as login behaviour patterns, geo-location and type of login system being accessed, multi-factor authentication fits that bill. For example, if the user is logging in from a trusted location where they have logged in before, they will not be prompted for a one-time passcode in order to authenticate. This allows end users the needed security with greater ease of use while working off-premises.

Why Multi-Factor Authentication, And Why Now

For IT administrators who may still be reluctant about the importance of multi-factor authentication, the facts speak for themselves:

1 The fastest-growing type of crime is identity theft and it is now more profitable than drug-related crimes. It is an easy, low-risk, high-reward type of crime and a threat to all businesses.
2 Headlines are reserved for the big brands that are hacked, but they are not the only ones being targeted. Thirty-one percent of all targeted attacks were aimed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
3 Hackers’ preferred weapons are weak or stolen user credentials; they are exploited in 76 percent of all network breaches.
4 From 2012 to 2013, the number of successful breaches went up by 20 percent. Not only that, but they also took longer to be discovered and ended up costing the victim companies 30 percent more.  The hackers are winning the war.  
5 Hackers do more than steal information. Often they destroy data, change programmes or services, or use servers to transmit propaganda, spam or malicious code.
6 Hackers keep getting better at stealing passwords through phishing, pharming, keylogging and other methods.
7 Don’t be afraid that adding user authentication will irritate users. Employees are already accustomed to authenticating themselves in their personal lives, as providers of online services such as home banking, gaming, social media and email have all adopted mobile-based tools to effectively authenticate their users when accessing their systems.
8 You’ve got anti-virus systems and advanced firewalls in place and you might run vulnerability tests as well. However, without user authentication, you are leaving the front door wide open to intruders.

Network Security: The First Necessity

IT admins have numerous necessary activities that daily compete for their attention, and sometimes security can seem like just another priority to juggle. But as hackers become more sophisticated in their attacks, IT managers must keep several steps ahead in order to protect the network – because they are usually the ones who bear the wrath of executives if a breach occurs. There is a fine line between protecting all platforms and users and making access difficult or blowing the budget, and IT admins can walk it by implementing multi-factor authentication. This user authentication method is convenient for remote workers and must be included in a holistic security strategy.

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