Antiquated IT Safeguards Leave Employees Frustrated, Enterprises Vulnerable, According To Study

Despite new security risks posed by a rapidly evolving technology environment, most companies continue to rely on the traditional username and password sign-on to verify a user’s identity. And according to a December commissioned study by Forrester Consulting, who surveyed 306 enterprises with 1,000 to 20,000+ employees on behalf of Symantec Corp., those organizations are unnecessarily leaving themselves open to unauthorized access by hackers and e-criminals.

Titled “Enhancing Authentication To Secure The Open Enterprise,” the study yields some important new findings:

  • IT environments are pushing beyond traditional corporate boundaries, a trend that is exposing enterprises to more risks. More than half of companies surveyed (54 percent) reported a data breach in the previous year. As IT managers increase their reliance on cloud-based and SaaS solutions, collaboration tools, and enabling users to access their networks with mobile devices and personal computers, the number of security breaches is on the rise.
  • Malware attacks are employing password vulnerability in enterprises. Hackers are moving from conspicuous attacks like malware and phishing to more insidious attacks using stolen passwords to penetrate an organization and go undetected.
  • Password issues are the top access problem in the enterprise. To prevent unauthorized access, password policies have grown more cumbersome and error-prone. Such factors as password composition requirements, duration before password expiration, and multiple passwords to access corporate resources have inundated users. Additionally, 87 percent of users are expected to remember two or more passwords to access corporate resources. Meanwhile, password reset is the most common help desk call, in many companies accounting for between 30 and 50 percent of all help desk calls.
  • Strong, or two-factor, authentication technology is more convenient and cost effective than ever before thanks to the cloud-based model. Strong authentication is difficult for hackers to fool because it requires users to provide two simultaneous but independent methods of authentication: something they know (their password) and something they have (a one-time security code generated by a strong authentication credential). Unlike early-generation, on-premise solutions, today’s strong authentication offerings are far more cost effective due to technology advances like cloud-based authentication and use of mobile phones to generate one-time passwords.
  • Lack of strong authentication between enterprises and partners leave corporate networks vulnerable. A full 67 percent of companies do not require strong authentication from their partners to access corporate networks. The lack of strong authentication reduces security within an enterprise and creates a weak link when accessing the network.

The Forrester study also lists several recommendations for IT security executives:

  • Move toward implementing strong authentication now, and throughout the enterprise -- not just for select applications.
  • Ensure that open enterprise initiatives like SaaS access and partner access are protected at the same level as inside their organization.
  • Reassess strong authentication technologies to understand how today’s solutions, with mobile device apps that serve as low- or no-cost credentials, fit within their security environment and budget. The cloud-based model drastically reduces the cost of ownership while increases adoption.
  • Align strong authentication with their open enterprise landscapes, shoring up protections across cloud computing, SaaS, collaboration tools and mobile access initiatives.

“The IT landscape is changing so dramatically and so rapidly that one in four organizations are requiring users to remember six or more passwords to access corporate networks and applications -- and as this Forrester study shows, that approach to authentication is collapsing under its own weight,” said Atri Chatterjee, vice president of User Authentication at Symantec. “Today’s strong authentication offers a way to easily manage and control access to enterprise applications and networks via both computers and mobile devices -- and it achieves this with a cost-effective, SaaS delivery model that solves the old shortcomings of costly, premise-based solutions. As enterprises continue to open up, strong authentication can help keep the bad guys out.”

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