6 Password Policy Management Best Practices for a more secure IT environment

Remote working has impacted the world of cybersecurity in multiple ways. Remote workers are often not protected by enterprise-level security and so are more prone to cyberattack. The FBI reported a 300% increase in cybercrimes since the pandemic began, and remote work has increased the average cost of a data breach substantially. 

Employees working from home are also distracted – 

“47% of remote workers cited distraction as the reason for falling for a cyberattack.”

In other words, if you do not have a plan in place to mitigate these risks, you are setting yourself up for a potentially devastating cybersecurity breach.

One simple way to protect your organization from breaches is to apply a strong password policy at all levels of the organization, and enforce it by implementing a secure password policy management solution (PPM).

Here are some password policy best practices you may find useful.

1. Increase password length and strength

Brute force attacks try all possible combinations of characters to arrive at the password. A 6 string password with only upper or lower case letters can be cracked in 8 seconds. An 18 character password with upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols can take 1 quintillion years to crack! By adding a special character, combining both upper and lower case letters or adding numbers, encryption can be much more secure.

Image Credit: ghacks.net

The full strength of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) comes to bear when users create passwords of 32 characters for 128-bit encryption and 64 characters for 256-bit encryption. However, passwords of around 10 characters are strong enough for most applications.

2. Simplify as much as possible

A password made of only numbers has 10 options for each character in the string, one made of numbers and letters has 36 options, and if you include special characters that adds another 32 possible characters for each spot in the string. This makes it more challenging for brute force attacks to be successful. Complexity in terms of the kind of characters that can be used in the password is, therefore, an advantage.

However, do not mandate the usage of these different kinds of characters. This can lead to frustration and reuse of the same password with minor character substitutions (P@ssword or Passw0rd, for example). This is especially the case when the policy also demands frequent changes of password. If the old password is compromised, such minor variations will be relatively easy to guess, too.

To mitigate this risk, don’t mandate the use of special characters and reduce the frequency of mandatory password reset to approximately once a year. A long password using only lowercase letters is more secure than a short one which is a variant of an older password.

3. Do not allow password reuse

Do not allow reuse of earlier passwords during periodic password reset to increase security. Train your staff not to use minor variations of their earlier passwords, and instead look for completely different passwords.

Also train staff on the risks of reusing passwords across home and work accounts. Password reuse results in a huge surge in credential stuffing attacks. If any service is compromised and your password and username are stolen, hackers could use the same credentials to try and hack your other accounts. Each account must therefore use unique credentials to maintain security.

4. Reinforce passwords using multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication uses a combination of things you know, such as a password or PIN; things you have, such as a badge or smartphone; and things you are, such as biometric data, to authenticate your right to access a particular system, data or application.

Enabling MFA ensures that even if a password is stolen, the system is not compromised.

5. Use a secure password manager

Many users find it difficult to remember their passwords for multiple online services, and so either use a single password for all, or, worse, save all their passwords to an unreliable password manager. 

If you do opt for a password manager, choose one that is highly secure, in order to mitigate the risk involved. Most IAM solutions will include a password manager or, with Single Sign-on, completely do away with the need for multiple passwords. A single secure password is enough to log on to your IAM and access your applications and data.

6. Use an IAM application for Password Policy Management (PPM)

It’s one thing to lay down rules for password policy across the organization. It’s quite another to enforce the policy. An Identity Access Management (IAM) application can help you ensure that all your users consistently comply with a high standard of security while setting their passwords, without the need for a separate password policy enforcement tool.

Administrators can customize and define password policy for all users in the organization. You can also specify upon whom the policy should be enforced, based on the users’ access level. Password policies can of course also be defined as blanket rules.

A common perception is that the risks associated with breached passwords do not apply to your organization as you have secure systems. But your organization’s data security is only as strong as the weakest password of your users. In 2020, 770 million credential stuffing attacks occurred. That means that if your employee’s personal passwords are compromised, and they have reused the same password at work, your data is compromised too. Worse, 17% of all sensitive files are accessible to all employees, and about 60% of companies have over 500 accounts with non-expiring passwords.

Implementing a robust Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution brings you several steps closer to protecting your user credentials and corporate data. Worldwide, cybercrime costs will hit $6 trillion annually this year. Don’t let your organization succumb to a Data breach! With these simple steps, you can stay safe with multiple layers of data protection. Allow our team at Akku to help you secure your systems.

Identity and Access Management in the age of Bimodal IT

An important new practice that has emerged over the past few years in IT management is Bimodal IT, defined by Gartner as the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration.

While the application of the Bimodal concept within an enterprise has been the subject of much discussion, employing these two modes of management in the context of Identity and Access Management has not.

Here’s our take on how the Bimodal concept fits into our scheme of things as an Identity and Access Management solution provider.

Mode 1

By the standard definition of Bimodal IT, the focus of Mode 1 is on ensuring that existing applications and business functions are kept running smoothly. Therefore, Mode 1 clearly prioritizes stability over innovation.

In the context of IAM, businesses are becoming increasingly complex in the digital age, with touchpoints and interactions with increasingly large numbers of people or users, both within and outside the organization. 

Managing this change requires IAMs to undertake a gradual evolution towards becoming simpler and more scalable. A good example of this would be the need to build in the ability to automate decision-making for setting access rules and permissions based on dynamically collected information on users, from multiple sources.

This evolutionary approach is important to ensure continued forward movement, embracing new practices and technologies, while continuing to place primary emphasis on seamless operations.

Mode 2

Mode 2 in Bimodal IT, on the other hand, places its focus squarely on innovation. In Mode 2, the priority is to undertake larger, but less certain, leaps forward, to enable the existence of entirely new business processes and approaches. 

To look at the Identity and Access Management universe, in Mode 2, the mandate would be to build the next, future-ready new IAM platform. This could involve the development of an all-new, simpler and more scalable architecture from scratch, or incorporating increased agility to adapt to a fast evolving environment, for example.

Mode 2 involves planning and building for scenarios and use-cases that go beyond what conventional thinking can conceive of, to drive the next big change. But with this focus on innovation comes a need to accept some risk as well.

Akku is an enterprise IAM solution, and our journey to get here has involved adopting different facets of Bimodal IT. This process has helped us build a platform that delivers solutions to a range of use-cases that few others can match, and to do it reliably and seamlessly. Talk to us today to see how Akku could enable identity and access management, and more, at your organization.

IAM as the Solution to Healthcare Sector Challenges

Healthcare organizations are unique in the volume and sensitivity of information that they hold. Reports say that healthcare is among the 5 most cyber-attacked industries over the past 5 years. 

The 2020 Breach Barometer published by Protenus reports that in 2019, more than 41 million patient records were breached, and around 40% of the respondents surveyed in Europe and the U.S. were concerned hackers would breach their digital data.

The importance of bolstering cloud security in such an environment is therefore vital, and deploying an Identity and Access Management (IAM) system can play an important role in this process.

Here is a look at some of the key challenges facing the healthcare sector, and how an IAM could help to overcome them.

#Challenge 1: Enabling easy but secure access

Very often, breaches of patient data occur due to a lack of caution on the part of patients themselves, with the use of easily compromised passwords. This applies equally to healthcare providers too, with the need to access multiple applications, and therefore, the need to memorize multiple passwords.

The IAM Solution: 

Enforcing a strong password policy can help ensure that patients and providers alike set strong passwords that are more difficult to breach. Additionally, by enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA), an additional layer of security is added above the password. And to make things easier for providers, bringing all applications onto a single platform to provide them with a single point of access means that just one set of credentials is all that they need to remember.

# Challenge 2: Compliance with regulations

Healthcare is a highly monitored industry and there are certain established regulations to follow. For instance, in the USA you have the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as newer industry-specific regulations like Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS), for which compliance is non-negotiable.

These newer regulations call for adherence to certain prescribed standards of data security along with detailed audit capabilities.

The IAM Solution:

With an appropriate IAM solution, compliance requirements can be largely met through strong data encryption, implementing standards-compliant password policies across users, providing only the minimum necessary access to users, and comprehensive logging of every user action across applications and data points.

# Challenge 3: Driving digital transformation

COVID-19 has accelerated the speed of digital transformation, with the healthcare sector right at the center of the revolution. Telemedicine, Patient Access Management, and a host of other new requirements, each need control over a number of identities and access entitlements. 

The healthcare industry is under growing pressure to adapt to changing business models and technology innovation, as there is an ever-increasing need to protect access to sensitive data.

The IAM Solution:

With features like single sign-on, IAM offers an integrated approach to patient care, enforcing security and compliance capabilities to increase efficiency. In order to support the new digital-first world of healthcare, therefore, IAM has become a necessity rather than an add-on.

Clearly, IAM is the need of the hour in the healthcare industry. And Akku, the powerful and flexible enterprise cloud control solution created by CloudNow helps to facilitate identity and access management across your healthcare enterprise’s cloud environment. Talk to us today to discuss how Akku may be able to help with your compliance requirements.

Is dependence on AD holding back your provisioning & deprovisioning?

Active Directory is quite simply the most popular identity management solution for enterprises in the world. An incredible ~90% of the Global Fortune 1000 companies use Active Directory as their primary method of authentication! 

Does your organization, like so many others, manage user identity with Active Directory (AD) too? If so, we’re guessing you have probably run into trouble with provisioning and deprovisioning for users across your environment. AD is great for identity management, but it was never built to act as a single sign-on (SSO) platform.

Challenges with AD for Provisioning & Deprovisioning

What this means is that either provisioning and deprovisioning would need to be performed for each application and user individually, or else, for Active Directory to be used to control access and permissions, each application would need to be integrated with AD separately. 

With the average enterprise running 1295 cloud-based applications, both these options seem like pretty poor choices. The former option is a tremendous drain on productivity for both admins and users, while the latter presents a host of complexities and costs to integrate AD with each of your apps.

IAM to the rescue!

So how do you get over these challenges? The answer lies in deploying an Identity & Access Management (IAM) solution that includes single sign-on (SSO) functionality.

Essentially, the IAM would act as an intermediate layer between your AD and your applications. So the IAM solution would need to integrate with Active Directory on the one side, and with all of your organization’s applications on the other. 

Through integration with your applications, the IAM can bring them all onto a single common platform and act as the Identity Provider (IdP) across your environment. Since most modern IAM solutions use SAML-based integrations with applications, these integrations are far less complex and expensive to implement than directly integrating AD to each application.

And secondly, integrating the IAM with AD would allow you to continue to manage identity – and now access permissions too – on AD itself.

Benefits of an IAM integrated with AD

At the end of this process, you would be able to control identity and access across your environment on Active Directory, giving you a familiar interface and process with enhanced functionality. 

Single-point control for your admins, and single-point access for your users, mean simple, fast provisioning and deprovisioning for IT and HR teams, saving them a tremendous amount of time and effort. 

Not to mention easy access to all permitted applications for users, helping to make them more productive too.

Akku is a powerful Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution by CloudNow that is built to play well with Active Directory, and also to integrate seamlessly with virtually any of your business applications. Call us today to see how Akku could enhance productivity and security at your organization!

The What, Why, and How of Deprovisioning

What’s deprovisioning?

Simply put, deprovisioning is the opposite of provisioning. While provisioning is carried out when an employee joins the organization, deprovisioning needs to be carried out when an employee exits. 

Deprovisioning involves revoking the user’s access to the organization’s data, applications and devices. It is the final stage of the corporate user lifecycle that begins with on-boarding and provisioning.

Why is it important?

Provisioning plays an important role in an organization’s productivity by getting new users the access they require to perform their role in the company. 

Deprovisioning, on the other hand, plays a critical role in security and compliance. When an employee moves on, it is vital that they no longer have access to the organization’s data or applications, because this would leave the door open to misuse. 

The consequences can range from data theft to malware insertion, leaks of confidential information to compliance violations. Each of these can have a major negative impact on the company’s finances as well as reputation.

How does it work?

Most organizations make use of multiple applications in their operations. Manually remembering to revoke access from a user when they exit the company can therefore be tedious, time consuming, and can easily result in human error as well.

A key requirement for an efficient and effective provisioning and deprovisioning process, therefore, is to bring control over access to all of the organization’s applications and data onto a single platform. This is typically achieved through the use of a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution – which is typically one of the major components of an Identity and Access Management solution.

With an SSO in place, the company’s admins can exercise control over user access from a single place, making the process fast, accurate and convenient. By removing the user’s account in one centralized dashboard, their access to all applications and data is then automatically revoked.

Akku is an enterprise identity and access management solution by CloudNow that helps companies manage the corporate user lifecycle more efficiently – from provisioning all the way to deprovisioning. Talk to us today to see how Akku could help your business address security and compliance issues arising from sub-optimal deprovisioning processes.

Can you Trust the Agent on your Active Directory?

If a company works with very few applications, user repositories would have to be mapped individually for each application. Every new user needs to be validated with each individual user directories to be able to access the respective protected application. This means that the same user has to log in separately every time he/she wants to use each application on the network. The inefficiency of this model was reduced greatly with the advent of Active Directory and LDAP.

A significant number of identity and access management solutions have the need to work with Active Directory as the repository of user information against which access is verified. Active Directory generally controls user identity and access permissions to everything from files, networks, and servers, to on-premise and cloud applications. However, integrating an Active Directory or LDAP with on-premise and cloud applications require third-party agents to be installed on your network.

Continue reading Can you Trust the Agent on your Active Directory?

Prevent Cybercrime with the Zero Trust Model of Cybersecurity

Would you trust just anyone to enter your home? Or would you first confirm that you know them and they have the right to be there?

The Zero Trust Model (ZTM) of security follows a similar principle. The ZTM approach is to be aware of anything entering the company, whether from inside or outside the company’s perimeter.

ZTM simply verifies everything that requires access to the system. The approach does not necessarily decree that every request should be denied. Instead, it asks: Why is access needed? How far? How long?

Continue reading Prevent Cybercrime with the Zero Trust Model of Cybersecurity

Working Online? Watch out for Identity Theft!

Identity theft is as real as your identity and as dangerous as the one who steals it. It occurs when an unauthorized person or entity uses your personal information to assume your identity and commit fraud and other criminal activities including stealing from you, or from others in your name.

What does an identity thief steal?

Your name, address, credit card or bank account information, and even information that might otherwise seem harmless, such as photographs, information about your family members or your date of birth could be used in harmful ways in the wrong hands.

Continue reading Working Online? Watch out for Identity Theft!

Cloud Security 101: Identity and Access Management

An Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution allows organizations to manage user access to critical data. It is an intermediate layer between your users and your applications/data.

Deploying an IAM solution a proven way to improve network security in an organization. A good IAM solution should also reduce the time spent by your IT team to grant access for individual applications, thereby improving architectural simplicity and reducing the load on your servers. This also means that your users have to remember only one set of credentials to access several applications in your on-premise or cloud network.

Continue reading Cloud Security 101: Identity and Access Management