With remote work continuing to be a normal part of operating, the concern about factors that lead to possible disruptions is always high.
The most important factor to consider is the constant threat your organization faces from hackers and the level of protection your current cybersecurity offers.
Cybercriminals are smart. They saw American enterprises scramble to transition to remote work and amidst all the chaos, they know some items fell through the cracks. Often those items are cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
Workers are using mobile or personal devices to work from home instead of their safely guarded hardware back in the office. They are accessing corporate networks, communications, and databases through unsecured computers. The conditions are perfect for malicious attacks.
As you continue to add remote work to your IT strategy, do you have the right authentication standards in place to ward off a cyberattack?
How Does Authentication Work?
It may be helpful to define security authentication and some related words.
Authentication is a process that confirms a user’s identity before allowing them to access sensitive information. It is the gatekeeper to secure data.
An example would be using a username and password to log in to your enterprise’s database. The authentication process compares the user’s credentials to those on file. If they match, the process is complete and the user receives access.
Authentication shouldn’t be confused with the second step of authorization. Authorization determines what permissions a user has after they have been authenticated. Perhaps an employee has the login credentials for your database but is not authorized to open a certain file or account there.
Together, authentication and authorization keep sensitive data, environments, and applications secure from cyber predators. Unfortunately, many enterprises focused on access and forgot about authentication and authorization when they began working remotely. They enabled applications for working at home but overlooked authentication solutions.
And now cybercriminals are on the prowl.
Types of Authentication
Authentication is like a locked door that keeps your data and systems secure. Your employees need a “key” that only they can use to unlock and enter that door.
These “keys” are authentication factors used in the IT world. Typically these fall into five categories:
- Knowledge: Something that the user knows, such as their username, a password, or an answer to a security question
- Possession: Something that the user has, such as a text message with a code or a security badge
- Inherence: Something physically unique to the user, such as a fingerprint or retina
- Location: The physical location of the user as identified by GPS or the use of particular hardware
- Time: A controlled time period of opportunity for the user to gain access
Every authentication factor has its pros and cons. Some are easier to set up and use than others. Some offer more robust security than others. While your workforce is remote, you will have to compare the benefits of available authentication factors to decide which ones fit your enterprise’s circumstances and capabilities best.
How Do You Balance Authentication for Remote Workers?
Your enterprise needs the right balance of access and authentication to support normal operations and business continuity. Too little security and you may soon face a major data breach. Too high of authentication standards, and employees will struggle to fulfill their responsibilities.
Experts recommend using a strong identity and access management solution that combines multi-factor authentication and passcode protections to balance access with authentication.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is ideal for data security because it requires more than one level of identity verification. Implementing MFA will require the least complicated authentication factors from employees when they access enterprise applications. This gets them on faster and minimizes the chance of not being recognized and allowed in.
To keep things simple for remote employees and your IT team, use digital or knowledge-based authentication factors like:
- Security questions
- Codes sent through email or text
The logistics of inherent and possession authentication factors are too complicated to be managed for a remote workforce. Location and time factors are not reliable when employees could be working anywhere at any time.
High authentication standards are not the only cybersecurity protections you should have in place, but they are a start. While some forms of authentication are not feasible for a remote workforce, utilizing the ones that make sense can protect your enterprise from disruptive cyberattacks and keep operations running smoothly during an otherwise challenging time.
If security authentication slipped your mind during the transition to working from home, your managed services provider can help you catch up and implement all of the digital security solutions you need to protect your enterprise now.
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