Three main properties determine the secure state of processed information - its confidentiality, availability, and integrity. Password authentication was one of the first barriers in data protection that appeared in IT systems simultaneously with operating systems.
For almost 20 years, it has been the first line of control. Obviously, among the main advantages of this method of protection are its familiarity and simplicity. Hardly anyone would dispute that many organizations use password authentication.
However, according to Trace Security, 81% of information security incidents happen because of weak passwords. The analysts thoroughly investigated the vulnerabilities of information security systems. The main conclusion reached as a result: weak user passwords are the most vulnerable point used by intruders in both large and small companies.
Weak passwords are bad, but the flip side of using complex passwords is that they are difficult to retain in a person's memory. As a consequence - the carelessness of keeping them in the form of work records, and in this case, it makes no difference whether the login/password pair is written down in an employee's notebook or is located in the password manager.
Knowing the tradition of handling such data by employees, it is not too difficult for an intruder to obtain this information. If we consider the often used "synchronization" of passwords for access to various applications and corporate systems, the information security of the enterprise becomes the digital dust.
Despite the wide range of technological solutions, the choice of authentication methods is not great. One-factor or password authentication for the secure operation of information systems in a developed business is no longer enough.
The strengths and weaknesses of multi-factor authentication are generally known. The advantages include its ability to protect information from both internal threats and external intrusions. A definite weakness may be considered the need to use additional hardware and software systems, data storage, and reading devices. At the same time, there are currently no or negligible statistics on hacks on systems that use two-factor authentication.
Password protection is popular but not ideal, so businesses have to use additional tools. SSO is a powerful and effective tool for simplifying employee access to personal websites and applications.
Authentication is a process that consists of two steps:
- Confirm the identity of a user.
- Providing the necessary level of authorization.
Authentication can be single-factor, two-factor (2FA), or multi-factor. The latter option is more secure because it involves not only a username and password but also additional factors. One example is SMS or push notifications in a mobile app.
Multi-factor authentication, which uses two or more different methods, provides the most security. Multi-factor authentication has a major hiccup: a user has to take the time to prove their identity each time they need to gain the required level of access. Single sign-on technology solves this problem.
Single Sign-On (SSO) allows users to securely authenticate to multiple applications and websites by logging in only once with a single set of credentials. It frees companies from having to store passwords in their databases, which reduces the time it takes to troubleshoot login issues, minimizing the damage from hacking and other attackers.
- The website or application verifies that SSO authentication has been performed.
- If a positive response is received, the user is granted access.
- If not, they are redirected to the SSO, where they must enter their username and password.
- SSO asks for authentication to verify identity.
- After successful verification, the user is let into the website or application (without saving data).
- Each new page transition initiates the user authentication procedure.
The benefits of single sign-on are multifold. When a system has a high degree of criticality involved, a single login and password may not be sufficient to provide the necessary level of protection against unauthorized access.
In this case, the authentication process can be strengthened using multiple authentication factors. That is, in addition to entering a username and password, you need to present something else to confirm the authenticity of the user.
One-time password and FIDO U2F token technologies are used for authentication in web applications. Cryptographic certificates can also be used as an additional authentication factor.
To sum up, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an important layer of security that’s becoming standard in enterprise SSO deployments. While it’s not a silver bullet, it’s likely the last line of defense in most situations, so its importance shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s already made a difference in the SSO world alone, and MFA will likely continue to have even more influence in the future.