Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one of the most highly recommended security measures in this age of brute-force attacks, data breaches and other such cyber attacks. And while some off-the-shelf SaaS applications may already come with a built-in MFA feature, when it comes to a custom-built application or website, businesses have to make the tough decision between reinforced security and the high cost at which it comes.
Identity management encompasses several operational mechanisms for managing users across a large system or network of applications. Two of the most prominent of those are Single Sign-on (SSO) and Federated Identity Management. Due to its evolving nature, identity and access management has several terms thrown around ambiguously. Even among developers, major differences are often missed while talking about federated identity and SSO. In this article, we aim to break down the difference between the two.
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.
How does identity theft happen?
Identity thieves are well-organized, tech-savvy, creative and have seemingly innocent online personalities. They can steal information, simply by requesting it from an unassuming person or by using technological attacks to capture millions of records from enterprises. Sometimes, a stolen wallet or a carelessly-thrown receipt or letter can also lead to identity theft.
Here are some of the ways in which an identity theft may take place in your organization:
A data breach, accidental or malicious, can have a heavy cost on both the organization involved and the individuals whose data is compromised.
Improper security on company-owned devices or devices that have access to your organization’s data is one of the leading causes of data breaches that lead to identity theft.
Phishing involves sending deceptive emails with links to malicious websites that may either request or steal your information. If one of your employees is manipulated by such an email and clicks on a link it provides, it can be dangerous to the organization itself.
Even if your organization’s email can manage to keep out such mails from employee inboxes, if your employee has access to their personal email at the workplace, they are at the risk of being compromised.
Public Wi-Fi Connections
One of the problems with allowing your employees to work remotely is the possibility that they may be working from places that offer open or free public wireless internet connectivity. A criminal who also has access to the same network could also be able to observe all of your employee’s activities.
Carelessness with passwords, whether in terms of the creation of weak passwords or the way they are stored, can make your employees and your organization susceptible to identity theft.
Read our blog on Everything You Need to Know about Secure Passwords to know more about keeping passwords safe.
How can you prevent identity theft?
When it comes to preventing identity theft, the first step to take is to sensitize your employees on the different ways in which it can happen. Studies have proven that employees are the preferred channels that identity thieves use when they target organizations.
From your end, you also need to:
- Set a strong password policy across your enterprise applications, to ensure that your organization is not compromised through your employees’ use of weak passwords
- Use two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication to enhance the security of applications carrying sensitive data
- Ensure that your DNS filter works effectively to block out malicious websites that your employees may try to access
- Block access to employees’ personal emails at work, so that there a lesser chance of data compromise and data breaches through phishing
- Set up IP-based or device-based restrictions so that unauthorized persons are kept out of your applications when they try to access them from unsafe locations or unrecognized devices
An identity and access management solution (IAM) like Akku can help you take control of all the preventive methods listed above, all in one go.
Get in touch with us through firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to know more about how Akku can help protect your organization from identity theft through identity/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.
What should you expect from a good IAM solution?
Streamlined User Access
An effective IAM solution should greatly reduce hassle by providing a slick and time efficient method to validate users. It should be able to do this without compromising on security, allowing only legitimate users to access your network from on-premise or remote systems.
Conventionally, at organizations that have numerous applications on their network, users need to remember multiple sets of credentials, which is inconvenient, but more secure. An effective IAM solution should be able to strike the right balance between the two extremes of convenience and security.
With a single set of user credentials to access all permitted applications and data, memorizing multiple credentials is avoided, improving productivity and ease of use.
Another important feature you should look out for is the ability to control user access to your network. This is typically delivered through device- and IP-based restrictions, which give you the ability to provide access only from specific devices or IP addresses to your network. In addition to simply whitelisting specific requests, an IAM solution should also be able to permanently block illegal access from blacklisted devices and IPs.
Seamless Admin Control
An identity and access management solution should give the administrators of your network a simple and intuitive dashboard with all the controls needed to secure your network and manage access across it. This can go a long way in reducing the cost and time for your IT team.
This includes managing creating and removing user accounts, as well as controlling the level of access provided to each individual user.
Identity and Access Management by Akku
Akku by CloudNow is a state-of-the-art Identity and Access Management solution for all your user management needs. Its powerful SSO function simplifies user identity and access management, IP- and device-based restrictions prevent unwarranted access, multi-factor authentication reinforces security, and a range of other versatile features put you in complete control of your network. Get in touch with us now to know more!
Google Cloud Platform (GCP) IAM comes as a free service that is available by default to all users of the Google Cloud Platform. GCP IAM is Google’s identity management console, enabling administrators of organizations to manage access and permissions provided to employees across the range of applications and resources that come as part of the Google Cloud Platform. The main function of the IAM is to grant specific users/roles with access to specific GCP resources and prevent unwanted access to other resources.
The fundamental building block of GCP IAM is an IAM Policy which answers the question of who (identity) has what access (role) to which data or applications (resource). This IAM Policy is made up of permissions, bundled into roles and matched by identities.
Let’s take a closer look at the concepts of identity, role, and resource as defined by GCP IAM, which make it a useful IAM solution.
A user’s identity can be accounted for through their Google account (assigned to an individual), Service account (assigned to a service related to the user’s role), a Google group (which can contain more than one Google/Service account), or a G Suite domain name (consisting of all G Suite accounts under a particular domain) or Cloud Identity domain (consisting of all G suite accounts under a particular organization) name.
A role is a combination of permissions assigned to an identity. Traditionally, Google had what are now known as Primitive Roles – which were a standard set of 3 – namely, ‘Owner’, ‘Editor’ and or ‘Viewer’.
However, in GCP IAM, Google has gone not one but two steps further – with Predefined Roles and Custom Roles – in allowing administrators a wider range of options when it comes to assigning roles (and therefore, access to do less or more) to the organization’s resources.
With what are known as Predefined Roles, granular separation of duties, such as Instance Admin and Network Admin to name a few, is made possible. Custom Roles, as the name suggests, are roles which administrators can customize based on the organization’s needs.
As defined by Google, “resources are the fundamental components that make up all GCP services”, and include Cloud Pub/Sub topics, Compute Engine Virtual Machines, Cloud Storage Buckets, and App Engine Instances.
These resources can then be grouped into projects. Administrators can assign permissions based on different roles to identities in their organization in order to provide them with access to specific resources. On the other hand, they can also provide access to projects, which will then provide users with access to all resources under the project.
In the GCP hierarchy, a group of projects can also be placed under a team, teams can be placed under a department and departments can be placed under the organization. Administrators can decide the level of access they wish to give each user based on this hierarchy.
GCP IAM is great, but….
Despite the extensive control it provides to administrators, and the numerous possibilities in authorizing user access, GCP IAM has one downside.
Organizations today utilize a wide range of applications, not all of them being GCP resources. They may use a combination of resources from Amazon Web Services, IBM or Azure, to name a few, and GCP IAM does not support identity and access management on these resources. Its lack of capability to connect with on-prem identity providers such as Microsoft Active Directory and OpenLDAP is another major roadblock.
Looking for one IAM to manage them all? Try Akku, one of the best identity and access management solutions from CloudNow, that can help you manage identities across your on-premise and cloud-based applications seamlessly!
Most IAM tools utilize browser extensions or applications installed on the end-user’s machine, or on an Active Directory, for access to identity. But why?! A user can be identified even without an agent – so having an so-called ‘lightweight agent’ sitting in your Active Directory itself is not the most secure way to manage user identity.
Whenever you create a dependency to achieve a particular solution, it is important to ensure the solution is 100% secure and that applies for the dependencies (Agents) too. This could make the architecture slightly complicated, depending on how it works.
Another important factor against the use of an Agent-based architecture is that you have to trust the Agent not to exceed its scope. This is very important because even many of the applications and services that we trust these days are not actually secure, and many act beyond their scope. For example, as per Digital Content Next, even the big boy of the tech industry, Google, still collects user location information even after turning off location settings.
So the big question is, when the things can be done without an agent, then why use an agent at all? People say it is for efficiency, and may be they are right. But is this worth the compromise on transparency and security?
Whether or not you know what it is called, you have likely used 2FA at least once in your life online.
Remember the time you tried logging into your email account from a new device and your email service provider sent you an SMS with a PIN (OTP), to re-validate that it was actually you attempting to login? You would have been allowed access to your inbox only after you entered the correct OTP.
Or the time you tried to transfer money to someone through internet banking. Even though you already entered your customer ID and password, your bank’s application would want to make sure that someone else hadn’t stolen your credentials. They do this by sending you an email with a PIN or a link to click on, for additional validation.
Known by many names – two-factor authentication, two-step authentication, two-step verification or dual factor authentication, 2FA refers to a second level of authentication added on in order to enhance security inherent to a login process. This is in addition to the username and password step, which is relatively susceptible to hacking.
When two or more layers are added to the login authentication process, it’s also known as multi-factor authentication or MFA.
Types of MFA security
A two or multi-factor authentication process typically asks you for ‘something you know’ in the first step, such as your email ID/username and password.
In the second step, it may ask you to authenticate your identity with ‘something you have’ or ‘something you are’.
Something you know – the knowledge factor:
This could be your username and password, as in any ordinary login process, or it could be a PIN.
Something you have – the possession factor:
This traditionally referred to hand-held token items, such as smart cards or Yubikeys embedded with a certificate to identify the user. Nowadays, a ‘possession’ could also be your smartphone, containing an app which sends a push notification or a TOTP. This is especially beneficial since tokens like smart cards are relatively more prone to being lost, stolen or misplaced.
Something you are – the inherence factor:
Biometric authentication could involve the scanning of a biological element that is exclusively yours – such as your fingerprint, hand geometry, retina, iris and so on. Voice recognition can also be used.
Two-factor authentication for your business
If your business relies on highly sensitive data or handles personal data of clients, you need to have an information security management system in place. This is especially crucial these days as several governments are imposing stringent regulations to ensure that the privacy of their citizens is not compromised. Some business standard certifications also require security compliances to certify your business and, therefore, it is important for you to protect sensitive data with more than just single-factor authentication (SFA).
By setting up 2FA or MFA security in all your business applications, you are assured of a higher degree of protection. In this manner, even if somebody does steal, guess or hack a password or even a list of passwords, through a brute force attack, they will be stopped at the second level as they attempt to log in to a specific individual’s account.
Multi-factor authentication solutions by Akku
When your business uses multiple applications, it may be both expensive and difficult to set up and streamline multi-factor authentication in each. That is where Akku comes in, with the promise to address all these concerns once and for all.
Once you opt for Akku, it becomes a common identity provider (IdP) across all your enterprise applications and creates a single sign-on (SSO) page through which your users can access them. Having brought all of your applications to a single platform through the SSO, Akku then seamlessly implements the multi-factor authentication functionality across them all.
With Akku, users can decide to use any of the following options as their second factor for re-validating their identity, giving them the power of choice:
- A push notification delivered to their smartphone through the Akku mobile app
- A time-based OTP (TOTP) which expires in 30 seconds through an authentication app (such as Google authenticator)
- A PIN sent through an SMS to their registered mobile number
Akku is a great way to control and authenticate communication channels for any enterprise.
One of the biggest threats to any organization is the possibility of a data breach, which can result in loss of data, loss of trust, and ultimately, loss of growth of the business. This makes data security a critical aspect to consider in any enterprise.
An important consideration, especially for SME businesses, is to secure their data – most companies still look for a way to do it in the traditional approach to data security – with an on-premise local environment.
Running the organization with an on-premise environment requires a dedicated workforce, this can be replaced with a secure cloud-based environment. But how does this fit in with Akku? Akku is a pure cloud Identity and Access Management solution that can be integrated with cloud, hybrid or on-prem applications.
So how can Akku help your organization?
Akku’s first great feature would be its Single Sign-on (SSO), where any enterprise’s user accounts and applications can be integrated into a single platform – making access easy for users and control easy for admins.
Unauthorized access is restricted by Akku, which is built on a certificate-based authentication architecture.
It is also possible to filter the content accessed by an organization’s users – DNS filtering to control websites that can be accessed, YouTube filtering to ensure only relevant video content is viewed, and even personal email blocking to improve productivity and security.
Akku also maintains highly granular logs, allowing for detailed reporting on user behavior – time, location, OS and so on for users logging in.
These are just a few of the functionalities that Akku brings to the table to add value to your organization’s data security.
So fight back against data breaches, and tell the world “My Data and Communication are secure!”
As per a survey by Forrester Research (Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper, February 2017), in the last 4 years, out of every three organizations, two have had an average of at least 5 breaches. There are nearly 6 billion data records that were stolen and lost in the past 10 years. According to www.breachlevelindex.com, an average of 165,000 records are compromised every hour. According to this article published on www.csoonline.com, global cybercrime related damage is expected to exceed US$ 6 trillion annually by the year 2021.
How can IAM help protect data?
- Identification: Users make their claim on their identity by entering a username and verify through an authentication process
- Authentication: Authentication may be a password or may rely on advanced technologies, such as biometric and token-based authentication
- Authorization: The IAM system must then verify the user’s authorization to perform the requested activity and also ensure that users perform actions only within their scope of authority
Together, these three processes combine to ensure that specified users have the access they need to do their jobs, while unauthorized users are kept away from sensitive resources and information. Effective IAM solutions help enterprises facilitate secure, efficient access to technology resources across these diverse systems.
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the information security discipline that allows users access to appropriate technology resources, at the right time. It incorporates three major concepts:
According to this article on BizTech magazine, improved data security is one of the three main reasons to deploy an IAM solution.
The article highlights the fact that consolidating authentication and authorization functionality on a single platform provides IT professionals with a consistent method for managing user access. And when a user leaves an organization, IT administrators may revoke their access in the centralized IAM solution with the confidence that this revocation will immediately take effect across all of the technology platforms integrated with that IAM platform.
So implement an identity and access management solution at your organization to take a major step towards improved data security.
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.