Identity management is in crisis. The need for a secure, seamless authentication method for all digital identities has reached a critical point with the widespread remote working practices and accelerated digital transformation ushered in by the pandemic. Microsoft’s CEO went as far as to say that the pandemic was the foundation for ‘two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months’ as organizations of all shapes and sizes prepared for the new normal.
The past year’s accelerated digital transformation has highlighted the need to leave behind the total reliance on passwords, reflecting the fact that they aren’t as effective as the already available alternatives. Compromised passwords are far and away the most common cause of data breaches, with 80% of breaches involving the misuse or abuse of credentials. Gartner predicts that 60% of large enterprises and 90% of midsize businesses will be using passwordless authentication by 2024. Not only will this reduce the security issues around passwords but will also free up the time IT teams spend dealing with issues of authentication.
Businesses are turning to Zero Trust security with multi-factor authentication as a step towards passwordless, which is a key factor in an identity-first cybersecurity strategy. MFA is now a must for authenticating end users, but it is not enough in itself. A comprehensive approach to identity management will not just ensure users stay safe and secure but will also secure your machines, devices and interactions. IT leaders need to incorporate certificate-based services in order to defend all the identities on their network. This article will take us through three facets of a holistic approach to identity management that will help IT practitioners go beyond user identity management to ensure all the machines, devices, and interactions on their network are trusted identities.
Enabling trusted identities with automated PKI
It isn’t enough to authenticate just your users, businesses need to authenticate all their identities – whether it’s their systems, machines, or digital processes like signing contracts or wiring money– and ensure trusted and secure interactions among them.
This is where we see the benefits of a solution such as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). With PKI, you can issue certificates for a variety of different machines, so you no longer need to worry about unverified devices or applications on your network. In the era of flexible, hybrid, remote and ‘work from anywhere’ models, this is an invaluable part of PKI’s appeal: you can rest easy that a user is not bringing an unsafe device into the corporate network, even if this is a personal device which they are using for work.
When deployed and managed correctly by a knowledgeable security partner on your behalf, PKI is an effective authentication method both in terms of costs and security. By selecting PKI security partners, overworked IT teams can automate their PKI management and alleviate the pressure of implementing this technology manually without having the expertise in-house.
Securing digital interactions
Phishing emails and other forms of email-based compromise are increasingly worrying for IT teams and are the frequent causes of a data breach. Millions of phishing attacks are attempted every day, with the FBI reporting that in 2020 there were 11 times more phishing complaints recorded than in 2016. While many of these are random and ineffective, those who do manage to successfully target a specific individual at a company are often hugely lucrative for cybercriminals. A business email compromise (BEC) attack costs a business an average of $3.9 million.
These high stakes are another reason why PKI should be deployed across not just access requirements, but digital interactions across your business. By issuing personalized, secure certificates for emails, documents, and other business documents, you can sign and encrypt essential online interactions. Certificates can also be issued across authentication tools such as hardware tokens or smart cards. This will help to streamline digital transformation for not just users but their online interactions making it that much harder for hackers to operate with impunity on your network.
A user empowerment mentality
It’s also of paramount importance that the authentication solutions you are using are assessed by their long-term impact. Choosing an automated, user-centric solution is the best way to simplify the whole process, while ensuring that your IT teams and wider employees are able to do their jobs with as little interference as possible. Placing the user front and center of the process is the best way to ensure this is done. A user-centric policy also accounts for the diversity present in the types of users that identity management must cater for – differing login locations, devices, and combinations of remote and on-premise work can all be included in a user-centric identity management policy.
If this user-centric attitude can also be extended to PKI with a cloud-based, automated approach, organizations and employees will gain even more flexibility. This means that as your business grows, and more digital interactions are taking place in the network, your organization is able to scale up without added layers of complexity.
Implementing PKI with your multi-factor authentication will help to move organizations away from passwords and instead to a holistic, identity-first approach to cybersecurity. This in turn will free up IT teams and security personnel for the more serious and daunting task of ensuring that every aspect of an organization’s security posture is up to scratch. The threat landscape is expanding every day – freeing up these resources with identity-centric solutions like PKI means companies achieve zero trust and stay protected and can be free to do business, communicate, and create value anywhere.