What Are 2FA and SSO and Why Are They Crucial for Security?

Phishing attacks are commonplace today, encouraging people to enter their login information for a variety of platforms. Thankfully, there are certain security measures in place to help prevent phishing attacks using more secure login systems that phishers can’t as easily maneuver.

How Phishing Attacks Work

A phishing attack occurs when a user is somehow redirected to a fake login screen that asks for a username and password. In the case of Microsoft Office365, for example, users might receive an email that looks like it’s coming directly from Microsoft, encouraging visitors to visit a login screen under the guise of identity confirmation. The user then visits that dummy site that looks like the official site and enters his or her information, inadvertently giving it to phishers who may attempt to use that login later.

However, with two-factor authentication (2FA) and single sign-on (SSO) security measures implemented, phishers won’t be able to access private accounts if they somehow get hold of a user’s login information.

What Is 2FA?

Two-factor authentication, which can be shortened to 2FA, makes use of a second “factor” other than just a password to confirm your identity. These factors are usually something you know (your normal password for logins), something you have (a hardware FOB or authentication code app) and something you are (biometrics). Any combo of those factors can be used to setup 2FA on an app/device/website that requires a login, to add any extra layer of security.

A 2FA example that may seem familiar to you is an ATM Debit card. It requires you to have (the card) and something you need to know (PIN) in order to withdraw money from the account. Without both, the card is useless to a theft. This same logic can be applied but more securely against an attacker trying to gain access to your accounts.

Soft and hard tokens are available to use for authentication, either in physical form as a device attached to a keychain or card, or software such as an app that can provide users with a single-use authentication code to enter when logging in. Users will need to enter this code only after initially entering their username and password.

While many accounts are compromised because of generic passwords that are easy to guess, even the most secure passwords can fall in the hands of the wrong people if security measures aren’t in place to prevent unauthorized logins in the event of phishing or hacking attempts.

Having 2FA in place can give businesses that added layer of security that makes sure only authorized individuals can access accounts.

What Is SSO?

In addition to 2FA, businesses can implement SSO to further secure their assets. SSO enables an application or identity provider let other applications know who a user is. Using SSO, users don’t need to log into every application to get work done. Instead, users can enter a secure login in a single point of authentication to access the identity provider, which allows them to access individual accounts and apps, including Outlook and many others.

An Intermedia survey conducted back in 2014 found that large organizations typically gave their employees access to more than 15 different applications, which didn’t even include the number of apps available for employees in different departments to use on their own without disclosing them to IT. With so many apps and accounts, it can be a challenge for IT departments to make sure that networks and the data contained within them are consistently secure. With SSO in place, employees only need to use a single login, which helps mitigate the risk of using too many passwords at once.

However, the convenience of SSO can also make it vulnerable to hackers, which is why SSO can combine with 2FA to require users to verify their identity before accessing business accounts.
Integrating 2FA and SSO with Managed Security Services

To help businesses maximize security for a variety of applications, there are reliable managed security solutions that can keep accounts secure at all times through the use of SSO and 2FA. As a result, businesses can make sure that data does not wind up in the wrong hands and that they are able to maintain compliance. If you don’t have a dedicated IT department, it can be difficult to manage 2FA and SSO solutions and make sure that your systems and networks are secure when they need to be.

With the help of outsourced managed security services from Next-Level IT, you can focus more on running and growing your business while benefiting from peace of mind in knowing that your security is in good hands.