Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint //

Authentication

11/12/2019
04:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

The Myths of Multifactor Authentication

Organizations without MFA are wide open to attack when employees fall for phishing scams or share passwords. What's holding them back?

Compromised credentials are a huge threat to companies today. Why? The attacker is actually using valid (that is, stolen but valid) credentials, so why would your antivirus, firewall, and other technologies you might have in place flag anything unusual? Your tools assume people accessing your network are who they say they are.

This threat is now well known among organizations, but many of them still are not doing what needs to be done about password security. A couple of years ago, we surveyed 500 IT security managers in the US and UK, and the results showed that only 38% of organizations use multifactor authentication (MFA) to better secure network credentials. Sadly, more recent research shows that things haven’t changed much.

Why Are Organizations Reluctant to Adopt MFA?
Here are some myths that plague MFA:

Only large enterprises should use MFA.
This is a common misconception. Many organizations believe that a company needs to be a certain size to be able to benefit from MFA. They’re wrong. Using MFA should be a key security measure for any company, regardless of size. The data to protect is as sensitive and the disruption as serious in any company. And using MFA doesn't have to be complex, costly, or frustrating.  

MFA should only be used to protect privileged users.
Wrong again. In most organizations, most employees are considered to have access to valuable data, so they rely only on local Windows credentials. It seems a bit exaggerated to require them to use MFA to log in. But it's not. Those "nonprivileged" employees actually have access to data that can be harmful to the company. For example, let's take a nurse who could sell a celebrity patient's data to a newspaper. This shows the value of data and the possible harm that can come from it being inappropriately used.

But that's not all. Cybercriminals usually don't start with a privileged account; they take advantage of any account that falls victim to phishing scams to then laterally move within the network in order to find, access, and exfiltrate valuable data.

MFA is not perfect.
OK, no security solution is perfect — but MFA is close. As you may have heard, the FBI issued a warning recently regarding situations where cybercriminals were able to bypass MFA. There were two main authenticator vulnerabilities: "channel jacking," involving taking over the communication channel that is used for the authenticator, ⁠and "real-time phishing," ⁠which uses a machine-in-the-middle that intercepts and replays authentication messages. According to experts, such attack types require considerable costs and effort. Most hackers who encounter MFA prefer to move on to their next (easier) victim than trying to bypass this security measure. You can also take simple precautions to avoid some vulnerabilities, such as choosing MFA authenticators that don't rely upon SMS authentication. (The National Institute of Standards and Technology discourages SMS and voice in its latest Digital Identity Guidelines).

Despite recent events, the FBI affirms that MFA is still effective and that it's one of the simplest steps an organization can take to improve security.

MFA disrupts users' productivity.
It doesn't have to. With new technology, there is always the same challenge: implementing it in a way that least disrupts employees' productivity. If it's too disruptive, users will find a way to circumvent security controls. Without this sensitivity, adoption can slow or even stop. Therefore, MFA requires flexibility. Administrators may want to avoid prompting users for MFA each time they log in. That's why MFA should be customized according to each company’s needs.

Anyone can be victim of compromised credentials — whether you are a privileged or nonprivileged user. Using MFA should be a key security measure for any company, regardless of size, and can be one of the easiest ways to keep accounts secured.

Related Content:

 

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "Account Fraud Harder to Detect as Criminals Move from Bots to 'Sweat Shops'"

François Amigorena is the founder and CEO of IS Decisions, and an expert commentator on cybersecurity issues. IS Decisions software makes it easy to protect against unauthorized access to networks and the sensitive files within. Its customers include the FBI, the US ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Michael Landewe
50%
50%
Michael Landewe,
User Rank: Author
11/21/2019 | 12:55:04 PM
MFA is an easy way to tell attackers to just 'move on'.
Every minute of every day, attackers are utilizing breached password lists to attack both public and private services. If they notice MFA on a domain, however, they will typically not waste their resources and move on. 

Something that the article didn't mention is that NIST has changed its guidelines so that if you are using MFA, you no longer need to force users to change thier password every 90 days. 

If you pair MFA with a password manager, which makes a 32 character password as simple as 8, your barrier to compromise will be exponentially higher than your neighbor. 

 

 
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/9/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Why Cybersecurity's Silence Matters to Black Lives
Tiffany Ricks, CEO, HacWare,  7/8/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internet—and What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internet—and What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7814
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
RAONWIZ v2018.0.2.50 and eariler versions contains a vulnerability that could allow remote files to be downloaded and excuted by lack of validation to file extension, witch can used as remote-code-excution attacks by hackers File download & execution vulnerability in ____COMPONENT____ of RAONWIZ...
CVE-2020-5607
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Open redirect vulnerability in SHIRASAGI v1.13.1 and earlier allows remote attackers to redirect users to arbitrary web sites and conduct phishing attacks via unspecified vectors.
CVE-2020-15001
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-09
An information leak was discovered on Yubico YubiKey 5 NFC devices 5.0.0 to 5.2.6 and 5.3.0 to 5.3.1. The OTP application allows a user to set optional access codes on OTP slots. This access code is intended to prevent unauthorized changes to OTP configurations. The access code is not checked when u...
CVE-2020-15092
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-09
In TimelineJS before version 3.7.0, some user data renders as HTML. An attacker could implement an XSS exploit with maliciously crafted content in a number of data fields. This risk is present whether the source data for the timeline is stored on Google Sheets or in a JSON configuration file. Most T...
CVE-2020-15093
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-09
The tough library (Rust/crates.io) prior to version 0.7.1 does not properly verify the threshold of cryptographic signatures. It allows an attacker to duplicate a valid signature in order to circumvent TUF requiring a minimum threshold of unique signatures before the metadata is considered valid. A ...