Win the Cybersecurity Arms Race With Multi-Factor Authentication

As millions join the remote work revolution, boardroom meetings and handshakes are being replaced by Teams conferences and Outlook emails. The traditional workflows that drive business success are quickly moving into digital-first (and often, digital-only) environments. While this can do wonders for productivity and employee engagement, it can also introduce some serious risks to your business.

Before the shift to remote work, phishing or social engineering attacks already comprised more than 80% of reported security breaches. According to PC Magazine, the number of phishing emails has increased by 350% since the advent of COVID-19. In other words, it’s nearly inevitable that your employees will be targeted by phishing attacks. Unfortunately, many of them will succumb to them. According to TechRepublic, around 50% of employees periodically click on email attachments from unknown senders.

That’s bad news for your business.

The average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million dollars for enterprise organizations. And, on average, it takes 314 days to identify and contain a data breach. Small businesses face greater vulnerabilities. 60% of small businesses hit with a breach will close their doors within 6 months. So, how do you navigate this seemingly never-ending avalanche of security threats within the context of a remote workspace? Employees are no longer safeguarded by your on-premise network policies and infrastructure. In a nutshell, it’s employees versus cybercriminals. And, the latter seems to be getting the upper hand.

There’s a silver, no…a gold lining, however. You can fight back with a simple weapon — multi-factor authentication.

What is Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)?

Multi-factor authentication protects accounts by requiring more than one credential for access. Typically, that means a password as well as phone PIN, fingerprint, or answers to security questions. This may seem simple in terms of function. However, MFA can completely stop threat actors in their tracks. According to Microsoft data, MFA can prevent 99.999% of account hacks.

That said, there are many attack vectors through which hackers can gain unlawful access to consumer data, including:

  • Phishing: A form of social engineering where threat actors disguise themselves as trusted authorities. The goal is to weaponize emails to steal sensitive information.
  • Spear Phishing: In this advanced form of phishing, threat actors target high-value employees, such as CEOs, COOs, and CFOs. Once unsuspecting employees click on the email link, credential-stealing software (malware, a keylogger, etc.) is uploaded onto internal networks.
  • Keyloggers: This type of malware is typically used to capture keystrokes in order to snag passwords.
  • Account Takeovers: When hackers gain access to an account, they may use several account takeover methods to retrieve more types of sensitive data.
  • Malware: This is software designed to damage a computer system or steal information from vulnerable devices. Types of malware include ransomware, botnets, trojans, and spyware. According to CSO, ransomware has become more sophisticated and the scope of its threat has increased.
  • Credential Stuffing: In this type of attack, hackers use stolen usernames and passwords from corporate breaches and try to “stuff” them into other digital platforms to gain access to consumer data. Credential stuffing works because many consumers use the same passwords for multiple accounts. In fact, two in three users recycle the same passwords across several devices and platforms.

On the surface, these security challenges may seem insurmountable. However, MFA can mitigate all of them. With MFA, those credentials threat actors worked so desperately to retrieve will be worthless to them.

Deploying Multi-factor Authentication

Since Microsoft Office is, by far, the most common workplace software, we’ll focus on how businesses can leverage MFA in the Microsoft ecosystem. For starters, it’s important to understand that MFA isn’t necessarily a plug-and-play solution. You need cross-collaboration between IT stakeholders, C-suite staff, and employees to create a robust, functional MFA architecture.

To begin, you should rally your IT staff and employees to MFA through an internal communications campaign. This involves training, workshops, and feedback sessions. You should also contact your Microsoft Partner to determine what type of MFA solution you should deploy and which systems to protect with MFA. Ideally, you want to deploy MFA across your entire Microsoft ecosystem. When it comes to legacy systems and SaaS solutions that don’t integrate with your Microsoft ecosystem, you may need to create ad-hoc solutions to address security issues.

Microsoft even provides “passwordless authentication” — which is an MFA solution that uses fingerprint scanners and other means of entry besides passwords. Of course, this has benefits outside of an increased security posture. The average employee spends 10.9 hours a year entering passwords into various digital platforms. When you extrapolate that to the scale of your entire business, the time-savings could be immense.

Creating a More Secure Microsoft Ecosystem to Support Remote Work

MFA isn’t the only Microsoft-enabled security solution at your fingertips. Bitlocker is Microsoft’s encryption solution, and it can help you mitigate malware attacks by encrypting and locking down hard drives. According to Verizon, malware causes 28% of breaches. In fact, the average website is infected 44 times a day, and about 18.5 million websites are infected with malware at any given time. As employees leave the safe and secure embrace of your on-site network, protecting your business from accidental breaches (both within the context of work and outside of work) is crucial in safeguarding customer data and industry secrets.

This is just the beginning. Obviously, remote work increases your threat surface. You’re dealing with an incoming wave of new endpoints, and it only takes a single crack to topple the entire building. Solutions like Zero Trust Deployment, Mobile Threat Defense, Microsoft Defender ATP, and MDM policies all play a crucial role in your security posture.

To construct a more secure remote workplace, implement the right solutions to keep data out of the hands of cybercriminals. This starts with your Microsoft ecosystem. Since Microsoft has already developed the security solutions you need to safeguard data, it’s a matter of choosing the right Microsoft Partner, developing the right policies, and implementing the right security stack.

Work With Nexinite to Deploy MFA and Protect Your Business

Here at Nexinite, we want you to know something: you’re already under attack. Almost every business on the planet is being targeted by cybercriminals. Before the shift to remote work, businesses were hacked every 39 seconds. That number has skyrocketed. You’re dealing with new workflows, shifting consumer demands, and new goalposts. Neglecting to implement cybersecurity solutions in the face of new threats can sink your brand fast. Don’t wait! Contact your local Microsoft Partner to protect your business now. It may not be one of the boldest decisions you make this year. But, it will be one of the wisest.

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