Why passwords are the weakest defence in a Zero Trust world

  • 90% of security professionals have witnessed security incidents stemming from the theft of credentials, according to a recent MobileIron study conducted by IDG.
  • 86% of CIO, CISO and Security VPs would abandon password authentication if they could.
  • Another survey by EMA found that mobile devices secured by biometric authentication methods present the best option for replacing passwords.
  • There is a direct correlation between the number of times a user authenticates and the number of user access problems that need to be addressed.

These and many other fascinating insights make it clear that passwords are now the weakest defense anyone can rely on in a Zero Trust world. Two recent research studies quantify just how weak and incomplete an IT security strategy based on passwords is, especially when the need to access mobile apps is proliferating. Combined, these two MobileIron reports pack a one-two punch at passwords, and how they’re not strong enough alone to protect mobile devices, the fastest proliferating threat surface in a Zero Trust world.

The first, Say Goodbye to Passwords (4 pp., PDF, opt-in) by IDG, is based on interviews with 200 IT security leaders in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand working in a range of industries at companies with at least 500 employees. The survey’s goal is to uncover and quantify the major authentication pain points facing enterprises.  The second, Passwordless Authentication: Bridging the Gap Between High-Security and Low-Friction Identity Management (34 pp., PDF, opt-in) by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), is based on interviews with 200 North American-based IT professionals who are knowledgeable about their organisation’s use of identity and access management services. Please see page 4 of the study for additional details regarding the methodology.

The two studies provide insights into the perils of passwords and the merits of mobile when it comes to enterprise security, user experiences, and workforce productivity:

90% of respondents to the EMA survey have experienced significant password policy violations in just the last year

The most frequently reported was that identical passwords are being used to support multiple accounts (39.06%). The following graphic from the EMA study reflects password management worst practices that put an organisation at a high risk of a breach. A recent survey by Centrify found that 74% of all breaches involved access to a privileged account. Hackers aren’t breaking into systems; they’re obtaining privileged access credentials and walking in the front door as the graphic below shows.

88% of global security leaders believe that mobile devices will soon serve as a digital ID for accessing enterprise apps and data

In the US, the percentage rises to 91%. With cyberattacks on the rise and the disadvantages of passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) apparent to security leaders—from both a user and a security standpoint— it’s clear that new authentication methods are needed. Hardware tokens, seen by many security leaders as a more secure option for authentication than passwords, take a hit on user-friendliness compared to biometrics on a mobile device according to the survey’s results. Among the security leaders, 72% see biometrics as more user-friendly than passwords, versus just 58% favoring tokens over passwords for ease of use.

Four of the top five authentication technologies IT leaders prefer over passwords are biometrics-based

What’s encouraging from the EMA study is that the majority of IT departments are actively evaluating biometrics with 82% of respondents identifying at least one of the four basic biometric approaches as a passwordless solution.

87% of enterprises anticipate an increase in users needing business app access over the next 24 months

85% of respondents reported seeing an increase in the number of users who need to access business apps from a mobile device over the past 12 months. Mobile apps dominate enterprises’ internal software development efforts according to 91% of respondents to the IDG study.

Eliminating passwords reduces the friction or hassles required to gain access to apps and resources while improving organisation-wide security

The paradox of how to improve productivity and increase security is solved when passwords go away. Low-friction identity management approaches improve user experiences while simultaneously enhancing security and reducing management efforts as the graphic below shows:

Conclusion

Hackers would instead find ingenious ways to steal passwords and privileged access credentials than spend time attempting to hack into an organisation’s systems. Mobile devices and the apps they use are the fastest growing and most unprotected threat surface there is for businesses today, making them a high priority for hackers.

Relying on passwords alone to protect mobile devices makes them the weakest defense in a Zero Trust World. Eliminating passwords for more effective authentication and security approaches that are more consistent with Zero Trust is needed now.

https://www.iottechexpo.com/northamerica/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/all-events-dark-text.pngInterested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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