Which Form of MFA Is the Most Secure? Which Is the Most Convenient?

Credential theft is now at an all-time high and is responsible for more data breaches than any other type of attack.  

With data and business processes now largely cloud-based, a user’s password is the quickest and easiest way to conduct many different types of dangerous activities. 

Being logged in as a user (especially if they have admin privileges) can allow a criminal to send out phishing emails from your company account to your staff and customers. The hacker can also infect your cloud data with ransomware and demand thousands of dollars to give it back. 

How do you protect your online accounts, data, and business operations? One of the best ways is with multi-factor authentication (MFA). 

It provides a significant barrier to cybercriminals even if they have a legitimate user credential to log in. This is because they most likely will not have access to the device that receives the MFA code required to complete the authentication process. 

WHAT ARE THE THREE MAIN METHODS OF MFA?

When you implement multi-factor authentication at your business, it’s important to compare the three main methods of MFA and not just assume all methods are the same. There are key differences that make some more secure than others and some more convenient. 

 Let’s take a look at what these three methods are: 

SMS-BASED

The form of MFA that people are most familiar with is SMS-based. This one uses text messaging to authenticate the user. 

The user will typically enter their mobile number when setting up MFA. Then, whenever they log into their account, they will receive a text message with a time-sensitive code that must be entered.  

ON-DEVICE PROMPT IN AN APP

Another type of multi-factor authentication will use a special app to push through the code. The user still generates the MFA code at login, but rather than receiving the code via SMS, it’s received through the app. 

This is usually done via a push notification, and it can be used with a mobile app or desktop app in many cases. 

SECURITY KEY

The third key method of MFA involves using a separate security key that you can insert into a PC or mobile device to authenticate the login. The key itself is purchased at the time the MFA solution is set up and will be the thing that receives the authentication code and implements it automatically. 

The MFA security key is typically smaller than a traditional thumb drive and must be carried by the user to authenticate when they log into a system. 

Now, let’s look at the differences between these three methods. 

MOST CONVENIENT FORM OF MFA?

Users can often feel that MFA is slowing them down. This can be worse if they need to learn a new app or try to remember a tiny security key (what if they lose that key?). 

This user inconvenience can cause companies to leave their cloud accounts less protected by not using multi-factor authentication. 

If you face user pushback and are looking for the most convenient form of MFA, it would be the SMS-based MFA 

Most people are already used to getting text messages on their phones so there is no new interface to learn and no app to install. 

MOST SECURE FORM OF MFA?

If your company handles sensitive data in a cloud platform, such as your online accounting solution, then it may be in your best interest to go for security. 

The most secure form of MFA is the security key. 

The security key, being a separate device altogether, won’t leave your accounts unprotected in the event of a mobile phone being lost or stolen. Both the SMS-based and app-based versions would leave your accounts at risk in this scenario. 

The SMS-based is actually the least secure because there is malware out there now that can clone a SIM card, which would allow a hacker to get those MFA text messages. 

A Google study looked at the effectiveness of these three methods of MFA at blocking three different types of attacks. The security key was the most secure overall. 

Percentage of attacks blocked: 

  • SMS-based: between 76 – 100%  
  • On-device app prompt: between 90 – 100% 
  • Security key: 100% for all three attack types 

WHAT’S IN BETWEEN?

So, where does the app with an on-device prompt fit in? Right in between the other two MFA methods. 

Using an MFA application that delivers the code via push notification is more secure than the SMS-based MFA. It’s also more convenient than needing to carry around a separate security key that could quickly become lost or misplaced. 

LOOKING FOR HELP SETTING UP MFA AT YOUR COMPANY?

Multi-factor authentication is a “must-have” solution in today’s threat climate. Let’s discuss your barrier points and come up with a solution together to keep your cloud environment better secured. 

 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

What You Need to Know About the Rise in Supply Chain Cyberattacks

Any cyberattack is dangerous, but the particularly devastating ones are those on supply chain companies. These can be any supplier – digital or non-digital – of goods and services. 

We’ve seen several attacks on the supply chain occur in 2021 that had wide-reaching consequences. These are “one-to-many” attacks where victims can go far beyond the company that was initially breached. 

Some recent high-profile examples of supply chain attacks include: 

  • Colonial Pipeline: A ransomware attack caused this major gas pipeline to be shut down for nearly a week. 
  • JBS: The world’s largest supplier of beef and pork products was hit with ransomware that caused plants in at least three countries to shut down for several days. 
  • Kaseya: This software company had its code infected with ransomware, which quickly spread to IT businesses that used its products and to roughly 1,500 of their small business customers.  

Why do you need to be worried about supply chain attacks even more so than in the past? Because they’ve been growing and are expected to continue this trajectory. 

Supply chain attacks rose by 42% during the first quarter of 2021. A surprising 97% of companies have been impacted by a breach in their supply chain, and 93% suffered a direct breach as a result of a supply chain security vulnerability. 

If you’re not properly prepared, then you can be impacted by a breach of software you use or have a vital service or goods supplier go down for several days due to a cyberattack.  

As part of any good business continuity and disaster recovery strategy, you should look at supply chain risks in light of the current increase in attacks and formulate a plan. 

HOW CAN YOU MITIGATE YOUR RISK OF LOSSES DUE TO AN ATTACK ON YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN?

IDENTIFY YOUR SUPPLIER RISK

You can’t fix what you don’t know is wrong. So, you need to begin by shedding some light on your risk should one of your vendors get hit with ransomware (the current attack of choice on the supply chain) or another type of breach. 

Make a list of all your vendors and suppliers, both for goods and services. This includes everything from the cloud services you use to the company that supplies your office products or any raw materials you may use in a product you sell. 

Review these vendors to identify their cybersecurity risks. This is something you may need some help with from your IT partner. We can work with you to review vendor security or send them a survey to find out where they stand as to their cybersecurity, and then determine how much that may leave you at risk as one of their customers. 

CREATE MINIMUM SECURITY REQUIREMENTS FOR DIGITAL VENDORS

Come up with some minimum security requirements that you can use as a benchmark with your vendors. One way to make this easier is to use an existing data privacy standard as your requirement.  

For example, if a vendor is GDPR compliant, then you know they’ve adopted several important cybersecurity standards that protect their business, and yours, from an attack. 

DO AN IT SECURITY ASSESSMENT TO LEARN WHERE YOU’RE VULNERABLE 

If the software you use had a vulnerability that was exploited by hackers to take over a system, how much does that leave your systems at risk? Do you have a regular patch application strategy in place to ensure any software updates are applied right away? 

You should have an IT security assessment done if you haven’t done one in over a year. This will help you identify how strong your systems would be at preventing a breach or ransomware infection that was coming from a digital supply chain vendor. 

PUT BACKUP VENDORS IN PLACE WHERE POSSIBLE

If you sell widgets and have a single supplier for one specific part needed for that widget, you’re at a much higher risk of downtime than if you had two suppliers of that part. 

If a key vendor of yours is attacked and can’t fill orders or provide services for a week or more, how will that impact your business? This is what you want to consider when setting up backup vendors. 

For example, most companies would consider themselves down and not able to operate without their internet. Having a backup internet service provider can help you avoid lengthy downtime should your main ISP go down. 

Look at putting this type of safety net in place for all vendors that you can. 

ENSURE ALL DATA KEPT IN CLOUD SERVICES IS BACKED UP IN A 3RD PARTY TOOL 

Microsoft recommends in its Services Agreement that customers back up their cloud data that is kept in its services (such as Microsoft 365). The policy states, “We recommend that you regularly backup Your Content and Data that you store on the Services or store using Third-Party Apps and Services.” 

You should have a backup (in a separate platform) of all data that you store in cloud services, so you’ll be protected in case of a ransomware infection or other data loss or service loss incident. 

SCHEDULE A SUPPLY CHAIN SECURITY ASSESSMENT

Don’t be in the dark about your risk. Schedule a supply chain security assessment to learn where you could be impacted in the case of a cyberattack on a supplier. 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

6 Ways to Combat Social Phishing Attacks

Phishing is the number one method of attack delivery for everything from ransomware to credential theft. We are very aware of it coming by email, but other types of phishing have been growing rapidly. 

In recent years, phishing over social media has skyrocketed by 500%. There has also been a 100% increase in fraudulent social media accounts. 

Phishing over social media often tricks the victims because people tend to let their guard down when on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They’re socializing and not looking for phishing scams. 

 

However, phishing scammers are out there looking for you and will reach out via friend requests and direct messages. Learn several ways you can secure your social media use to avoid these types of covert attacks. 

MAKE YOUR PROFILE PRIVATE ON SOCIAL PLATFORMS

Phishing scammers love public profiles on social media because not only can they gather intel on you to strike up a conversation, but they can also clone your profile and put up a fake page for phishing your connections. 

Criminals do this in order to try to connect with those on your friends or connections list to send social phishing links that those targets will be more likely to click because they believe it’s from someone they know. 

You can limit your risk by going into your profile and making it private to your connections only. This means that only someone that you’ve connected with can see your posts and images, not the general public. 

For sites like LinkedIn where many people network for business, you might still want to keep your profile public, but you can follow the other tips below to reduce your risk. 

HIDE YOUR CONTACTS/FRIENDS LIST

You can keep social phishing scammers from trying to use your social media profile to get to your connections by hiding your friends or connections list. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook both give you this privacy option.  

Just be aware that this does not keep scammers from seeing you as a friend or connection on someone else’s profile unless they too have hidden their friends list. 

BE WARY OF LINKS SENT VIA DIRECT MESSAGE & IN POSTS

Links are the preferred way to deliver phishing attacks, especially over social media. Links in social posts are often shortened, making it difficult for someone to know where they are being directed until they get there. This makes it even more dangerous to click links you see on a social media platform. 

A scammer might chat you up on LinkedIn to inquire about your business offerings and give you a link that they say is to their website. Unless you know the source to be legitimate, do not click links sent via direct message or in social media posts. They could be leading to a phishing site that does a drive-by download of malware onto your device. 

Even if one of your connections shares a link, be sure to research where it is coming from. People often share posts in their own feeds because they like a meme or picture on the post, but they never take the time to check whether the source can be trusted. 

DON’T PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL MEDIA SURVEYS OR QUIZZES 

While it may be fun to know what Marvel superhero or Disney princess you are, stay away from quizzes on social media. They’re often designed as a ploy to gather data on you. Data that could be used for targeted phishing attacks or identity theft. 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal that impacted the personal data of millions of Facebook users did not happen all that long ago. It was found that the company was using surveys and quizzes to collect information on users without their consent. 

While this case was high-profile, they’re by no means the only ones that play loose and fast with user data and take advantage of social media to gather as much as they can. 

It’s best to avoid any types of surveys or quizzes on any social media platform because once your personal data is out there, there is no getting it back. 

AVOID PURCHASING DIRECTLY FROM ADS ON FACEBOOK OR INSTAGRAM

Many companies advertise on social media legitimately, but unfortunately, many scammers use the platforms as well for credit card fraud and identity theft. 

If you see something that catches your eye in a Facebook or Instagram ad, go to the advertiser’s website directly to check it out, do not click through the social ad. 

RESEARCH BEFORE YOU ACCEPT A FRIEND REQUEST

It can be exciting to get a connection request on a social media platform. It could mean a new business connection or connecting with someone from your Alma mater. But this is another way that phishing scammers will look to take advantage of you. They’ll try to connect to you which can be a first step before reaching out direct via DM. 

Do not connect with friend requests without first checking out the person on the site and online using a search engine. If you see that their timeline only has pictures of themself and no posts, that’s a big red flag that you should decline the request. 

CAN YOUR DEVICES HANDLE A PHISHING LINK OR FILE?

It’s important to safeguard your devices with things like DNS filtering, managed antivirus, email filtering, and more. This will help protect you if you happen to click on a phishing link. 

Find out how we can help! 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

How to Protect Your Online Accounts from Being Breached

Stolen login credentials are a hot commodity on the Dark Web. There’s a price for every type of account from online banking to social media. For example, hacked social media accounts will go for between $30 to $80 each.

The rise in reliance on cloud services has caused a big increase in breached cloud accounts. Compromised login credentials are now the #1 cause of data breaches globally, according to IBM Security’s latest Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Having either a personal or business cloud account compromised can be very costly. It can lead to a ransomware infection, compliance breach, identity theft, and more.

To make matters more challenging, users are still adopting bad password habits that make it all too easy for criminals. For example:

34% of people admit to sharing passwords with colleagues

44% of people reuse passwords across work and personal accounts

49% of people store passwords in unprotected plain text documents

Cloud accounts are more at risk of a breach than ever, but there are several things you can do to reduce the chance of having your online accounts compromised.

USE MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the best method there is to protect cloud accounts. While not a failsafe, it is proven to prevent approximately 99.9% of fraudulent sign-in attempts, according to a study cited by Microsoft.

When you add the second requirement to a login, which is generally to input a code that is sent to your phone, you significantly increase account security. In most cases, a hacker is not going to have access to your phone or another device that receives the MFA code, thus they won’t be able to get past this step.

The brief inconvenience of using that additional step when you log into your accounts is more than worth it for the bump in security.

USE A PASSWORD MANAGER FOR SECURE STORAGE

One way that criminals get their hands on user passwords easily is when users store them in unsecured ways. Such as in an unprotected Word or Excel document or the contact application on their PC or phone.

Using a password manager provides you with a convenient place to store all your passwords that is also encrypted and secured. Plus, you only need to remember one strong master password to access all the others.

Password managers can also autofill all your passwords in many different types of browsers, making it a convenient way to access your passwords securely across devices.

REVIEW/ADJUST PRIVACY & SECURITY SETTINGS

Have you taken time to look at the security settings in your cloud tools? One of the common causes of cloud account breaches is misconfiguration. This is when security settings are not properly set to protect an account.

You don’t want to just leave SaaS security settings at defaults, as these may not be protective enough. Review and adjust cloud application security settings to ensure your account is properly safeguarded.

USE LEAKED PASSWORD ALERTS IN YOUR BROWSER

You can have impeccable password security on your end, yet still have your passwords compromised. This can happen when a retailer or cloud service you use has their master database of usernames and passwords exposed and the data stolen.

When this happens, those leaked passwords can quickly end up for sale on the Dark Web without you even knowing it.

Due to this being such a prevalent problem, browsers like Chrome and Edge have had leaked password alert capabilities added. Any passwords that you save in the browser will be monitored, and if found to be leaked, you’ll see an alert when you use it.

Look for this in the password area of your browser, as you may have to enable it. This can help you know as soon as possible about a leaked password, so you can change it.

DON’T ENTER PASSWORDS WHEN ON A PUBLIC WI-FI

Whenever you’re on public Wi-Fi, you should assume that your traffic is being monitored. Hackers like to hang out on public hot spots in airports, restaurants, coffee shops, and other places so they can gather sensitive data, such as login passwords.

You should never enter a password, credit card number, or other sensitive information when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. You should either switch off Wi-Fi and use your phone’s wireless carrier connection or use a virtual private network (VPN) app, which encrypts the connection.

USE GOOD DEVICE SECURITY

If an attacker manages to breach your device using malware, they can often breach your accounts without a password needed. Just think about how many apps on your devices you can open and already be logged in to.

To prevent an online account breach that happens through one of your devices, make sure you have strong device security. Best practices include:

Antivirus/anti-malware

Up-to-date software and OS

Phishing protection (like email filtering and DNS filtering)

LOOKING FOR PASSWORD & CLOUD ACCOUNT SECURITY SOLUTIONS?

Don’t leave your online accounts at risk. We can help you review your current cloud account security and provide helpful recommendations.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.