Bringing Authentication Security Out of the Dark Ages

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Cyber threats have grown increasingly sophisticated in recent years, with an expanding attack surface, today’s hybrid work environment and new vulnerabilities introduced by the IoT are a few of the challenges. Despite this evolving landscape, most organizations have yet to modernize their authentication security to effectively prevent password-based attacks and related vulnerabilities. With the most recent DBIR finding that compromised credentials are behind more than 50% of breaches, it’s imperative that companies act now to bolster authentication security.

To understand more about this issue, Enzoic recently commissioned a survey of over 480 cybersecurity professionals. The State of Authentication Security Report underscores that—despite the passwordless hype—username and password combinations remain the primary authentication mechanism, with nearly 70% of companies utilizing this method. By contrast, only 12% of organizations are deploying passwordless strategies.

Legacy Approaches Weakening Password Security

Unfortunately, many companies are failing to evolve password management to reflect the current threat landscape. What’s more, the majority of those surveyed continue to follow legacy practices that have actually been found to weaken credential security.

For example, 74% of companies require forced resets every 90 days or less. Not only does this generate more work for employees and IT alike, it also fails to align with NIST’s updated password policy recommendations. The latter, along with Microsoft and other leading organizations, have found that employees typically select easy-to-remember credentials or swap out one letter or character when faced with frequent resets—resulting in a weak credential that threat actors can easily exploit.

The Dark Web Dilemma

Password reuse is another problem contributing to authentication security challenges, with Google finding that employees reuse a single password an average of 13 different times. The volume of breaches means that the Dark Web has become a treasure trove of this information; hackers can easily find and obtain lists of compromised credentials to fuel ongoing password-based attacks.

Our research highlights that most companies are aware of this vulnerability, with 84% of respondents concerned about weak and compromised passwords. However, many fail to grasp the extent of the threat—46% estimate that less than 1/5 of their passwords could be found on the Dark Web, while another 26% are unsure what percentage might be available there.

The Case for Credential Screening

This underscores the importance of modernizing authentication security to incorporate screening for compromised credentials—something that less than half of the respondents in our survey are currently doing. Enzoic helps companies protect against this threat by screening password and username combinations against its proprietary database of billions of exposed credentials. We maintain the latter using a combination of proprietary automated processes, submitted contributions, and research from our threat intelligence team. Because our database is automatically updated multiple times per day, organizations can be assured that their password security reflects the latest breach intelligence.

Another key benefit of our credential screening solution is that it eliminates the IT helpdesk burden of frequent resets and other legacy approaches while offering a more frictionless user experience. Because the screening happens automatically in the background, non-compromised users gain efficient access to their accounts and services. Should a compromise be detected, organizations can automate their response with a range of actions, including the immediate disabling of the account in question.

The Path Forward

While there are many unknowns in cybersecurity, there is one universal truth: hackers will continually hunt for new ways to exploit companies for financial gain and other nefarious purposes. With the DBIR and other studies repeatedly pointing to compromised credentials as a common threat vector, it’s imperative that organizations act today and shore up authentication security.

You can read more about this issue and other findings from the State of Authentication Security Report here.

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