Most people use a Password Manager to save their account passwords. A password manager is an app or device which serves as a single collection point for all of a user’s account credentials. LastPass and Dashlane are two well-known password managers in the market. The usage of a password manager presents a security risk in case of a data breach. In fact, as per the Independent, the password manager LastPass was hacked and a data breach did occur, compromising user credentials.
Another high-risk method that many users follow is to save their passwords in their browsers, and use auto-fill for convenience.
In today’s world, data breaches are the highest level of threat – don’t forget, all your data is being protected by your passwords! No security initiative can come with 100% convenience – but it is important to understand and prioritize security.
This is even more important for enterprises, where the tools they are providing their users to manage their passwords are eventually protecting the company’s data.
There are enterprise IAM tools available in the market which help enterprises to provide a secure single sign-on (SSO) and other access control lists such as IP- and device restrictions, time and location restrictions, and multi-factor authentication. These functionalities help end users as well as administrators to protect company data with additional layers of protection.
Delving deeper into MFA as a means to improve password security, the trend today is that many leading SaaS providers have started deprecating SMS as the medium to send the OTP, since this is an old-school method and comes with dependencies in order to serve its purpose. The modern and more convenient way to run an MFA is using TOTP and push notification.
Implementing a single sign-on (SSO) with an MFA is a powerful way to boost the security of your passwords while ensuring a minimal compromise on the convenience front. And of course, type your password each time instead of saving it in your browser or a password manager to minimize the security risk.
Your password – your secret passphrase or PIN that you use for your email, social media profile, or applications at work – is necessary for you to gain access to your accounts. But more importantly, your password plays a critical role in ensuring that no one else has access to your accounts, ensuring the security and privacy of your own as well as your organization’s data and applications.
With advancements in technology, it is important to be aware that there are equally advanced ways in which people steal information belonging to others, and even more ways through which they can misuse that information. Therefore, it goes without saying that secure passwords are of prime importance.
Common Password-Related Mistakes
You can’t blame yourself for being naturally inclined to choose a simple password that will be easy to remember. Unfortunately, these are the very same passwords that are also easy to guess or crack with a hacking software. Remember that, if information about you that can be found online – your date of birth, favourite colour, pet’s name, and so on – is incorporated into your password, it becomes even more vulnerable.
Another mistake made by most people is that a common password is used across multiple online accounts. The problem with doing this is, if someone manages to crack your password to one account, you are giving them free access to the rest!
Writing down your password or saving it somewhere online? This is a very naive act that can put your entire online data at risk of being accessed and stolen easily. Some of the other mistakes you might be making when it comes to passwords is that you don’t change the factory-set or default password, you use the same password for too long, and so on.
Tips to Set Up a Secure Password
Create a long password with a minimum length of 10-12 characters
Use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters
Special characters need to spread out across the password and not be limited to the first or last place
Do not use the same password for multiple security points
Change your passwords every 1-3 months
Avoid using words with obvious references to your personal life
Avoid using dictionary words as a whole
Passwords in the Workplace
In the workplace, the importance of a secure password is further amplified because the breach of a corporate network can have consequences that will affect the entire business.
Employees, who are otherwise the biggest assets to a company or business, also become the weakest link in the security chain protecting its data. The reason? Poor password selection and the subsequent compromise to data security. A single password, if compromised, can open the security gates and let intruders in.
Combating Weak Passwords in the Workplace
A good password policy is the weapon of choice when it comes to combating the threat of weak passwords.
A password policy is a set of guidelines that help users set up strong and secure passwords. When a password policy is enforced, a user is not allowed to create a password that does not abide by these guidelines.
Some essential features of a password policy are:
1) Password Length & Complexity Requirement
The password policy ensures that every password created is of a minimum length (for example, at least 6 characters long) and needs to use a variety of character types (uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, special characters).
2) Minimum & Maximum Password Age
This part of the password policy decides how often a password is to be changed. Ideally, a good password policy ensures the expiry of a password once in 3 months, so the user is forced to create a new password. However, if a policy prompts the user to change their password too often, they may be tempted to write it down or store it elsewhere. This, again, will compromise security.
3) Password History
When a user is prompted to change a password, he/she may tend to reuse a password they had earlier used for the same application. By enforcing a good password policy, users will not be allowed to reuse an old password at least for another 5 times.
4) Number of Failed Attempts
A password policy also establishes the maximum number of invalid attempts allowed before an account will be locked out temporarily. Once locked, the account may need administrator support to be unlocked and made accessible again.
Beyond Password Security
For companies and businesses that use highly-sensitive data, it may be required to go one step beyond just a good password policy that enforces strong passwords. In such cases, a two-factor or multi-factor authentication functionality may be enforced, where additional layers of security are integrated into the sign-in process.
With such a functionality, users will be required to re-validate their identity using one or more of the following:
A one-time password or PIN
A thumbprint or retina scan
A Yubikey, smart card, USB token, or magnetic strip card
The European Union enforced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 with three main aims: to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower the data privacy of all EU citizens and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy. As you can see “data privacy” is the keyword in all three of the above mentioned aims. With multiple data breaches coming to light in the recent years, even from several of the world’s biggest corporates, the European Union has enforced stringent measures to regulate the use and prevent the misuse of citizens’ data through the GDPR.
Compliance and Consequences
As stated specifically in the GDPR, all enterprises (whether businesses or organizations) must take a “high level of protection of personal data” as one of their top priorities so that the “abuse or unlawful access or transfer” of such data may be prevented. If data is breached, or if GDPR procedures are compromised, the enterprise will face serious penalties. The fine for the non-compliance to GDPR for breach of data could be up to €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is higher, depending on the type and extent of the breach.
This applies not only to enterprises within the EU, but also to those that may be located outside and offer goods or services of any type to the EU. The GDPR rules also apply to cloud controllers and processors.
The Emphasis on Passwords
Interestingly, the GDPR does not place any direct regulations on the way passwords are created or used. However, when it comes to the protection of online data, it’s hard to argue against securing passwords being the logical first step. On the one side, businesses that provide access to customers through an online portal typically ensure that they are creating secure passwords to sign in to by enforcing password policies that define their length and other parameters.
However, the slip often occurs when the employees of these enterprises are allowed to create weak passwords for accessing in-house applications. What is often forgotten is that these applications also carry sensitive data that belong to both the enterprise and its customers. A compromise here can cost the enterprise more than just the data; it will cost its credibility as well.
By enforcing a strong password policy, administrators can ensure that users of an enterprise’s applications set up and use only passwords that are secure and, therefore, much less susceptible to brute force attacks and other hacking attempts.
A password policy defines and enforces a set of rules that include the minimum length, acceptable combination of small and upper case letters, use of numbers and special characters, expiration period of passwords and so on.
Without a password policy, the administrators of an enterprise would have no control over the type of passwords their users set, and would have their hands tied when it comes to situations that lead to a data breach, making it hard to demonstrate the GDPR’s requirement of a “high level of protection of personal data”.
This makes a strong password policy a critical requirement for every on-premise as well as cloud-based application, both for data security and to work towards complying with this aspect of the GDPR.
The Hybrid and Multi Cloud Conundrum
Unfortunately, setting in place a password policy across all of an enterprise’s applications is much easier said than done.
Most enterprises use a wide range of applications across different platforms – both cloud-based and on-premise – with each application operating on different technologies and each with its own identity management and password policy, controlling how users set up passwords in each application can often be an expensive and time consuming process.
Implementing a common bridge layer across of the applications used by the enterprise in the form of an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution to act as the identity provider (IdP) across all applications is the best way to overcome this challenge.
The Akku Solution
Akku is an identity and access management solution that integrates all of the on-premise and cloud-based applications of an enterprise, providing a single platform for administrators to control employee access, permissions, and levels of control within its different applications.
With Akku playing the role of the identity provider (IdP), it enables administrators to set up a single password policy that will instantly be applied to all of the applications that are accessed by a user at the workplace. This password policy holds good, irrespective of whether the application is on-premise or cloud-based, or across different platforms. Akku also allows for the secure resetting of passwords, as specified by GDPR standards. Besides password policy enforcement, Akku also utilizes a custom salted-hash function, users’ credentials are also encrypted to ensure a high level of security.
Want to explore a quick and hassle-free password policy implementation across your enterprise applications? Get in touch with us today at email@example.com
An array of information being stored online comes with major security risks. Therefore safeguarding data is an important consideration at any organization. And the security of your data relies heavily on the strength of your users’ passwords. The stronger your passwords, the more secure your data! It is important for administrators to drive a strong password policy enforcement, as it is the first layer of defence against black hat hackers and scammers.
A password policy is a set of rules created to upgrade an application’s security by requiring its users to frame a strong password and to utilize it in an appropriate way.
Why is Securing your Border Vital?
In today’s scenario setting up unique passwords for multiple applications is a burden for any user. Most users rely on using a single password for multiple applications, which can put the organization’s data at risk.
This makes implementing a strong password policy essential in protecting your data. Additionally, setting a Password Policy forms a part of the policies or rules for an organization to comply with ISO and PCI certifications.
Top Four Factors for Password Policies
Enforcing a strong password policy in an organization is an uphill task. There are some fundamental norms which are followed by a majority of organizations.
1.Length: The longer the password, the more difficult it is to crack. Set a minimum of 8 characters for your users’ passwords.
2.Complexity: The level of security depends on the complexity of the password framed. Passwords must have a mix of uppercase characters (A-Z), lowercase characters (a-z), numbers (0-9) and punctuations ( eg. !, #, $,*).
3.Expiration: A best practice in improving password security is to have a periodic password expiry. Most often the validity is 30/45 days and at the end of expiry date, the user is forced to change their password.
4.Uniqueness: Require users to set a unique password that has not been used previously when they reset their password.
How Can a Forgotten Password be Securely Retrieved?
When a user logs in with the right password, he is permitted to access the organization’s applications. On the other hand, when a user logs in with incorrect credentials, if the organization allows SSPR (Self Service Password Reset) then the system prompts the user to reset the password on his own.
Here’s how it works – a window pops up with a certain number of questions, and when the user answers all the questions correctly, he is permitted to reset the password. However, this process leaves the door open to social engineering attacks by black hat hackers.
A safer approach is to disallow SSPR in the password policy of an organization. In this scenario, the only way to reset a user’s password is to reach out the admin – this is safer and does not allow any intrusion through social engineering, and therefore reduces the data security threat.
I shall write more about SSPR and social engineering in my next article.