Top image: 2FA and SSO are important for brand strategy

2FA and SSO: Why they should be a part of your security strategy

Businesses today face an ever-growing threat from cyberattacks. These threats are no longer limited to simple phishing emails or brute force attacks; attackers now leverage advanced techniques such as social engineering, exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities, and even using large language models (LLMs) to craft highly convincing and personalized phishing attempts. These sophisticated tools can mimic human behavior and language so effectively that even the most cautious employees can be deceived, increasing the chances of a successful breach.

Imagine a scenario where an employee at a major corporation receives a seemingly legitimate email from their IT department. The email contains a link to a familiar-looking login page, asking the employee to verify their credentials due to a system update. The employee, believing it to be a routine request, enters their username and password. Unbeknownst to them, this simple act has just given a cybercriminal access to the company’s sensitive data.

While many companies focus on securing their internal systems to prevent such attacks, it’s equally important to ensure that third-party tools, which are integral to business operations, are also protected. The increasing dependence on these tools for everyday operations means they often have access to sensitive data and critical business functions, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals. Two-factor authentication (2FA) and single sign-on (SSO) are essential in safeguarding these tools. 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification beyond just a password, while SSO simplifies the login process and strengthens security by centralizing authentication.

This article will explore the importance of 2FA and SSO, why businesses should implement them now, and how these measures can protect your brand reputation.

Understanding 2FA

What is 2FA?

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security process that requires users to provide two different authentication factors to verify their identity. This typically involves something the user knows (a password) and something the user has (a mobile device, a secured email account, or a hardware token).

A key benefit of 2FA is that it helps neutralize compromised passwords. Even if a password is hacked, guessed, or phished, it alone is insufficient to gain access without the second authentication factor. This added layer significantly boosts security.

Consider the case of a major healthcare corporation that faced a significant breach due to the lack of MFA on a critical server. The breach resulted in the exposure of sensitive health information of millions of individuals. If 2FA had been implemented, it could have prevented the unauthorized access and the consequent data leak.

How does 2FA work?

When logging into an application, users first enter their username and password. Once this information is validated, a second form of authentication is required. This could be a code sent to their mobile device, a fingerprint scan, or a facial recognition check.

This second step significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access by ensuring that even if someone obtains your password, they cannot access your account without the additional verification step. By requiring this extra step on any software used, businesses can greatly enhance their security posture, protecting sensitive data and reducing the risk of breaches. For more details on why 2FA is crucial, refer to Boston University's guide on why to use 2FA.

Understanding SSO

What is SSO?

Single sign-on (SSO) is an authentication process that allows users to access multiple applications with a single set of login credentials. This means that once a user logs in to one application, they can seamlessly access other integrated applications without having to log in again. Users only need to remember one set of credentials, making it easier to manage passwords and reducing the likelihood of password fatigue, which can lead to weak or reused passwords.

SSO also centralizes the authentication process, allowing IT departments to enforce strong password policies and manage user access to various applications from a single point of control. This simplifies the onboarding and offboarding processes, ensuring that employees have the right level of access to the tools they need.

How does SSO work?

SSO uses the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) protocol to facilitate the secure exchange of authentication and authorization data between an identity provider (IdP) and service providers. A user first logs in through the identity provider, like Okta or OneLogin, which confirms the user's identity and generates an authentication token. That secure token then grants the user access to approved applications across your integrated services.

By implementing SSO, businesses can provide a more convenient and secure login experience for their users. This not only improves productivity but also enhances security by reducing the number of passwords that need to be managed and monitored. SSO also significantly reduces IT support costs associated with password resets and management. For a detailed guide on setting up SSO, refer to Emplifi's SSO self-service guide.

Why your third-party tools need 2FA or SSO

Cyber attacks are increasingly targeting MFA weaknesses. Push-based attacks, where users are bombarded with authentication requests until they mistakenly approve one, have become more prevalent. Additionally, the rise in sophisticated phishing attacks and credential-stuffing incidents underscores the urgent need for robust authentication mechanisms. According to Cisco Talos’ research, 25% of engagements involved users accepting fraudulent MFA push notifications, and 21% of incidents were due to poor MFA implementation​​.

The cost of a data breach can be astronomical, not just financially but also in terms of lost customer trust and damage to brand reputation. Customers expect their data to be secure, and any failure in this area can lead to a significant loss of trust and loyalty. 

Third-party tools can be a weak point in security if not properly protected. Implementing 2FA and SSO for these tools ensures that only authorized users can access sensitive information or systems, greatly reducing the risk of data breaches. At Emplifi, we require all users to enable either 2FA or SSO to access our platform. By using Emplifi’s solutions, you can be confident that your business and customer data are protected by the latest security standards.

Steps to implement 2FA and SSO

  1. Evaluate your current systems: Assess if third-party tools are being used and their current security measures.

  2. Choose reliable providers: Select providers that offer 2FA and SSO that’s compatible with your existing systems, such as Google Authenticator for 2FA, and Okta or OneLogin for SSO.

  3. Develop a deployment plan: Outline a step-by-step plan for integrating 2FA and SSO, including timelines and responsibilities.

  4. Train your employees: Ensure 100% of users understand the importance and adopt the new authentication processes.

  5. Monitor and adjust: Regularly review the effectiveness of your 2FA and SSO implementations and make adjustments as needed.

For more tips, check out Microsoft's importance of two-factor authentication.

Conclusion

Implementing 2FA and SSO is crucial for securing both internal systems and third-party tools. These measures protect sensitive data, maintain customer trust, and safeguard your brand’s reputation.

For more information on how Emplifi helps keep your business secure, contact our support team or visit our demo page to schedule time with a member of our team.

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