Identity Access Management (IAM). It’s the linchpin of any organization’s security structure. What started with passwords has evolved into a more robust framework of business processes, policies, and technologies that facilitate the management of electronic or digital identities and monitors who can access your company’s sensitive information. Simply put, these policies ensure that members of your team only have access to the information they need to know. The evolution of access management began with the use of the Single-Sign-on (SSO) process to a Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) process.
As security threats have grown in scope and frequency, however, many security professionals have sought new ways to bolster the sign-in security process graduating to the use of Multi-Factor and keeping bad actors at bay. In this two-part series, we’ll examine the evolution of privilege access management and discuss the benefits of transitioning to the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) as a key element of your organization’s security protocols.
Why Multi-factor Authentication Matters
We know what you’re thinking, ‘My organization already uses strong passwords, and we have an SSO system in place, do I really need to add multi-factor authentication?’
The answer is YES. If it’s worth protecting, it’s worth the multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication, often referred to as two-factor authentication goes a step further than traditional SSO protection by requiring the user to provide an additional form of identification. Essentially, the second factor is something that only the end-user either knows or has. This could be done by using a PIN, virtual key or passcode, a device in their possession like a phone or hardware key, or even biometrics like a fingerprint scan. These technologies also provide the ability to securely store identity and profile data as well as ensure that only data that is necessary and relevant is shared. These technologies can be used to benefit citizens in how their government manages their data, allowing them to only share information with the relevant agencies or departments, among a multitude of benefits.
In a recent study conducted by Google in collaboration with the University of California and New York University, researchers found that nearly 100% of security breaches were prevented using MFA. Providing organizations and individuals with a compelling reason to employ MFA to secure their network.
The Role of Multi-Factor Authentication in Protecting Identity Access Management
Despite its apparent simplicity, MFA plays a crucial role in protecting IAM. In an IAM environment without MFA, anyone with valid user credentials can gain access to the resources they are assigned to. These credentials could be stolen, but when checked against the database they will be verified as true, and access is granted. This is one of the most prevalent attack vectors, as 61% of data breaches involve compromised credentials.
An IAM environment with MFA is significantly more secure. Even if the credentials are verified against the database, access is not granted until the MFA challenge is cleared. It could be something the end-user is supposed to know or have in their possession. In both scenarios, the chances for a remote attacker to break through are drastically reduced.
MFA protects IAM by ensuring that an IT resource is not compromised simply because the username and password combination was leaked. Passwords are notoriously unreliable when used as the only authentication factor. It’s a much more unlikely scenario that an attacker will have stolen a set of valid credentials and have the answer to the MFA challenge.
In part two of our series on MFA our experts expand on the most effective options on the market and how Cloud Carib can help your organization implement an effective IAM environment.