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Why is Identity the New Security Perimeter and How To Protect It?


With the work environment expanding from the four walls of an office to remote ecosystems consisting of global teams, traditional cybersecurity practices like firewalls and passwords are less reliable for guarding businesses’ sensitive data. Protecting personal information is more crucial as your employees’ endpoints become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

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According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, 82% of breaches involved the human element, including social attacks, errors and misuse, and 62% of incidents in the System Intrusion pattern involved threat actors compromising partners.

Recognizing the importance of proper identity security measures can bolster your business’s cybersecurity strategy to prevent data breaches. In this article, we will explore why identity is the new security perimeter and provide tips on protecting it, giving you peace of mind and helping you safeguard your personal information.

Understanding Identity Security

So, what is identity security?

Identity security is a solution that extends to cloud services, mobile devices and other possible touchpoints that can interact with your IT infrastructure. With this approach, you can safeguard your infrastructure against identity-driven breaches.

8 in 10 breaches are identity-driven, as cyber-attackers continue evolving tactics and leveraging compromised credentials to secure a path into launching severe attacks in organizations. The identity-based security approach helps to guard this path by inspecting every identity that interacts with your network, including your employees, third-party vendors and even end-users.

The Four Pillars of Identity Security Management

An extensive identity-based security approach includes four pillars every identity must go through before accessing critical assets. This approach enables organizations to secure access across any device, anywhere, with a good user experience. The four pillars include:

  • Identification: This is the process of collecting information, like a unique identifier such as an ID number, passport or email address, to establish the user’s identity.
  • Authentication: This involves verifying the identity accurately to ensure they are who they claim to be. This process can be done through various methods, including biometric data, answers to security questions and security tokens.
  • Authorization: This is the process of determining and providing the proper actions or permissions for an authenticated identity. This pillar is based on the roles assigned to users according to the identity and access management structure.
  • Accountability: This involves holding identities or users responsible for their actions while interacting within the network. It is usually achieved through auditing and reporting users’ actions to record a trail of activity that can be reviewed and investigated if necessary.

These four pillars form the foundation of a comprehensive identity and access management system that helps organizations ensure that only authorized users are granted access to sensitive assets while providing accountability for actions taken within a system.

Identity as the New Security Perimeter

Perimeter security is the approach that focuses on safeguarding the external network perimeter of an organization’s IT infrastructure from security attacks like unauthorized access. This approach aims to maintain a line of defense to access control and monitor access to the company’s IT assets.

With the state of today’s enterprise environment, identity becomes the new perimeter that organizations need to protect to prevent outsider access to their data and systems. By assigning unique identities to their servers, users and IoT devices, businesses can spot unauthorized actors with fake identities and keep them out while processes continue.

Recognizing identity as the new perimeter helps protect your business’s assets against insider threats. These threats can be caused by trusted insiders, including employees and contractors, who misuse their access privileges to steal sensitive data or compromise systems. You can proactively address and prevent such threats by continuously monitoring user behavior and setting alerts to detect unusual or suspicious activity.

Securing access to resources based on users’ identities enables you to better protect your business’s sensitive data and intellectual property against sophisticated attacks and insider threats.

There are several ways you can protect identity as the new security parameter, including:

  • Adopting a Zero Trust model;
  • Implementing Multi-factor authentication (MFA);
  • Using verified identities and phishing-resistant MFA solutions;
  • Collaborating with a managed cybersecurity services provider.

Significance of Adopting a Zero Trust Model for Identity Security

A Zero Trust model is a security framework that treats all access attempts as potentially malicious and requires users to be authenticated and authorized for each access request. The model goes beyond credentials like a correct username and password or access token and typically implements a security boundary whenever a user connects to your network to ensure the request is valid and authorized to proceed.

The Zero Trust model helps to control the identity-based perimeter by providing a least privilege framework where only the required access is granted, reducing the attack surface. A Zero Trust security model also protects against insider threats by assuming that no user, IoT device, or network should be automatically trusted.

Access to information is only authorized based on a need-to-know basis, and any request has to be verified and authenticated before approval. From minimizing the risk of data breaches to increasing visibility and control, a Zero Trust model is vital to a solid identity-perimeter security strategy that identifies threats and takes action to prevent them.

Modern Authentication vs. Legacy Authentication

Before discussing multi-factor authentication and how it helps secure an identity-based perimeter, let’s look at the two types of authentication: legacy and modern.

Legacy authentication is the traditional authentication approach that uses a username and password when accessing resources, for example, Microsoft 365 services. While this method is familiar to most users, it has several security limitations, including the inability to implement multi-factor authentication and conditional access policies.

Modern authentication provides a more secure method with token-based authentication. With this approach, users must provide their username and password, then a second authentication factor, such as biometric data or a one-time password. The second factor is used to verify a user’s digital identity.

Microsoft recommends using modern authentication for all Microsoft 365 services to improve security and reduce the risk of unauthorized access. This move to modern authentication is evident in their deprecation of basic authentication. Microsoft announced the disabling of legacy authentication for Microsoft 365 services and encouraged organizations to do the same.

Importance of Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is a security measure that requires users to provide two or more authentication factors to access a network. Typically, this authentication involves providing a password, security token and fingerprint, adding protection against unauthorized access.

With additional security beyond basic credentials like username and password, multi-factor authentication helps verify the user’s identity. For example, if a cyber attacker gets a user’s password, they would still need an additional form of authentication, like a security token, to access the user’s account. 

Examples of multi-factor authentication methods include:

  • SMS or email-based codes: This method sends a one-time code to the user’s email address or mobile phone via text message. The user enters the code into the login page to verify their identity, and the code has a specific period before it expires, so it cannot be used again.
  • Authenticator apps: These apps generate one-time codes for users to verify their identity. Good examples include Google Authenticator and Microsoft Authenticator apps.
  • Security tokens: These small physical devices generate one-time codes for users to verify their identity. These tokens are typically used with a username and password.

While multi-factor authentication is an effective way to secure access by verifying users’ identities, it has some limitations. One of the primary limitations of some multi-factor authentication methods is that they can be vulnerable to phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks are designed to deceive users into providing their login credentials and other sensitive information, enabling attackers to bypass multi-factor authentication. There are, however, phishing-resistant MFA solutions that address these issues to protect users’ identities against fraudulent activities.

Verified Identities and Phishing-Resistant MFAs

Verified identities involve collecting and validating the user’s information, such as their name and address, to ensure they are who they claim to be. This process is significant in identity security, providing more assurance regarding the user’s identity. 

However, verifying identities can be complex, and most users are concerned about their privacy and security when providing such information. Organizations can balance identity verification and protecting individuals’ privacy for a better user experience with phishing-resistant MFAs.

This type of MFA solution helps protect against social engineering attacks that trick users into disclosing sensitive information by adding a layer of authentication resistant to phishing. The additional layer is more difficult to replicate and can be behavioral analytics, biometric authentication or physical security keys.

An excellent example of phishing-resistant MFAs is Yubico digital keys which provide a physical token for authentication. You can insert the key into your device via a USB port, which provides a second factor, such as a PIN or biometric authentication, to confirm your identity. The key can only be used by its authorized user, even if it is stolen.

Phishing-resistant MFAs add a layer of authentication based on unique physical or behavioral characteristics that are difficult to replicate or spoof. This approach helps to increase the assurance of verifying a user’s identity without sacrificing privacy.

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Why Is Identity and Access Management (IAM) Important? | How ne Digital Can Help

As you prioritize the protection of user identities as the first line of defense against cyber attacks, implementing solutions like the Zero Trust model and multi-factor authentication will ensure top-level security so you can scale your business and adopt digital transformation without worrying about breaches.

With a managed cybersecurity services provider, your business gets all the support it needs to develop and manage its identity and access management (IAM) strategy and implementation so that you can focus on growth. At ne Digital, our teams of experts deliver exceptional IT services, including managed services for Microsoft 365, to help organizations maximize ROI without compromising sensitive data. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you design an IT infrastructure that works for you.

Topics: Cybersecurity

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