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.

Myths about Multi-factor Authentication

When large organizations like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook report password hacks, it throws some light on how vulnerable current systems are, as well as the need for multi-factor authentication. However, multi-factor authentication is shrouded in myths that may prevent organizations from adopting it. 

Here, we have addressed a few of the most common myths surrounding multi-factor authentication. Continue reading Myths about Multi-factor Authentication

The Key to Data Security: WebAuthn

What is WebAuthn?

WebAuthn (Web Authentication API) is a global standard specification for secure authentication on the Web, formulated in 2018 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

This browser-based API allows user authentication on web applications through the creation of strong “credentials” and user-agent-mediated access to authenticators. This could be either in the form of hardware tokens (like U2F security keys) or in-built modules (biometric readers like Google Hello, Apple Touch ID) in the platform. Web Authn has garnered the support of all leading browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, and is compatible with all leading platforms. Continue reading The Key to Data Security: WebAuthn

To Implement or Ignore: MFA for Custom Apps & Websites

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.

Continue reading To Implement or Ignore: MFA for Custom Apps & Websites

The Problem with SMS-based Authentication

As mobile phones became more sophisticated, their usage shifted from being communication oriented to application oriented. But phone numbers were never intended to be used as secure identifiers – their purpose is to simply act as subscriber identifiers during call routing. When applications use phone numbers in their login processes, it can give attackers and hackers an advantage.

Here are a few ways in which your OTP can be intercepted by hackers:

Continue reading The Problem with SMS-based Authentication

Hashing And Salting – The What And How

“irgvctxmsr” – sounds like gibberish, doesn’t it? But if you were to decrypt this string using a mono-alphabet shift cipher where each letter has been shifted to the right by 4 numbers, you would see that it spells “encryption”!

Protecting critical data and information by encrypting them was first performed by Julius Caesar in 120 BC. The art of encryption has been through several modern shifts, and currently most of the data on the internet is protected using sophisticated encryption algorithms like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adlemen), ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography) and PGP (Pretty Good Privacy).

Continue reading Hashing And Salting – The What And How

3 Important steps to improve network security against brute-force attacks

A brute-force attack is a type of cybercrime which involves automated hacking activity using bots. The primary aim of a brute-force attack is to crack a password in order to gain access to a user account in an unauthorized manner. Using the automation tool, an attacker repetitively attempts different alpha-numeric combinations at considerable speed – thousands per second – until the user’s password is determined and the account is unlocked.

With the advent of the cloud and the rapid innovations in technology, a brute-force attack has emerged as one of the most common types of outsider attack against web applications.

Continue reading 3 Important steps to improve network security against brute-force attacks

Protect your Business from Privilege Abuse with IAM

Privilege abuse – that is the security threat that your business’s IT team is most worried about. According to a survey conducted in March 2014 among more than 4000 IT security executives, over 88% of them fear that users who have access to the organization’s applications and data are the ones who are most likely to compromise it and lead to a security breach.

Privilege abuse, or privileged user abuse, refers to the inappropriate or fraudulent use of permitted access to applications and data. This could be done, either maliciously, accidentally or through ignorance of policies. In addition to causing financial losses, such insider breaches also damage the organization’s reputation, sometimes irreparably.

Continue reading Protect your Business from Privilege Abuse with IAM

Why is multi-factor authentication indispensable?

Ever heard of the butterfly theory? A single flap of a butterfly’s wings in Australia has the potential to cause a tsunami in Indonesia. Similarly, a minor tweak in your IT infrastructure has the potential to make every node of your network vulnerable to serious attacks, irrespective of their relationship. To ensure that network security remains as streamlined as possible through any number of changes to your IT systems, it is crucial to add a virtually unhackable component to your network security.

Continue reading Why is multi-factor authentication indispensable?

The What, Why and How of Two-factor Authentication (2FA): Decoded

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.

Continue reading The What, Why and How of Two-factor Authentication (2FA): Decoded