Why Two Factor Authentication is Utmost Priority for Government Institutions?

In present era of digitization, the government institutions are adopting the latest technological standards and converting their services online for making the access easier to the users. These institutions have websites, servers and highly sensitive data available in the cloud for simplifying the access. Security of these digital assets is must, as hacking incidents have become too common over the past few years. So, incorporating an additional protection layer is the key to a better digital security.

Two Factor Authentication seems a powerful solution for protecting confidential data and other digital assets of government institutions against frequently increasing security threats over the Internet. As per a research, the global Two Factor Authentication market to grow steadily at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of around 24 percent by the year 2021. The rise in the volume of online transactions is the major drive to this increased market growth.

 

Security challenges and needs of the public sector (Government Institutions)

Government organizations are a likely target for cyberattacks due to the vast amount of information; including financial data, they gather and share about the market or businesses. The U.S. Federal government, being the largest employer in the country, maintains a “massive confidential data volume” on its employees and other constituents – Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report, which looked at security threats in more than 20 industries of different domain. Government entities face various types of security breaches like viruses and other malware, hacking incidents, malicious activities, phishing, DoS (Denial of Service), advanced persistent threats, etc.

The U.S. Federal government is on the top of the list of entities that attackers like to breach. In a report issued in October 2014, The Heritage Foundation, public policy research institute, provided a list of federal government cybersecurity breaches. Most of these breaches occurred during the year 2013 and 2014.

The organizations included in this list have been pointed below:

  • S. Federal Courts
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Defences
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Department of Education
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Federal Election Commission
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Government sector data breaches on rise

An analysis by Rapid7, security risk intelligence solutions provider, has reported that more than 94 million records have been breached over a 3-year period (2009-2012) due to government sector data breaches. These records were containing PII (Personally Identifiable Information). Unintended disclosure, portable devices loss/theft, physical loss, hacking, etc., were some of the leading causes of data breaches in the government sector. Majority of these records; i.e. 86 percent, were breached due to the loss or discarding of endpoint devices.

A few highlights from the report:

  • The highest number of data breaches (102) was in 2010.
  • From the year 2009 to 2010, 50 percent increase was observed in the number of data breaches.
  • The number of PII records increased by 169% from 2010 to 2011, and 138% from 2011 to 2012.

Two factor authentication becoming mandatory for Government sector – here’s why

As per IBM X-Force data, 200 million government records around the world were compromised by July month of the year 2016. This is 60 million more than all the records breached from 2013 to 2015 combined. It shows that the percentage of hacking incidents of the government records is increasing rapidly.

Security Incidents Percentage by Attack Type

  • Physical, 5.71%
  • Phishing, 8.57%
  • Malware, 14.29%
  • Heartbleed, 2.86%
  • SQL Injection, 42.86%
  • Misconfiguration, 25.71%

Major Cybersecurity initiatives in the year 2016

  • 29% Strategy
  • 37% Monitoring
  • 29% Governance
  • 29% Risk Assessments
  • 39% Training and Awareness
  • 29% Operationalizing Cybersecurity
  • 29% Identity and Access Management
  • 29% Metrics to Measure Effectiveness
  • 29% Regulatory and Legislative Compliance

To prevent the increasing number of cyberattacks on the government records globally, Two Factor Authentication has been accepted as a fruitful solution. It is an approach to move beyond password-only verification and use an added level of security in the login process.

Defining this security solution

Two Factor Authentication, commonly known as 2FA or Two Step Verification, is an extra layer of security added to the traditional username and password-based approach of accessing the online accounts or logging in to a server admin panel. 2FA requires two different types of login credentials or authentication factors – password and verification code, to verify whether the user is authentic or not.

Every authentic end user knows his account password (first factor), and the verification code (second factor) having validity of less than a minute is sent to his registered physical device. So, the user must have access to his physical device for a successful login and protection against the exploitation of stolen passwords.

Two Factor Authentication, a type of Multi Factor authentication, requires not only the username and password combination, but also something that only the user has. Hence, it makes difficult for intruders to gain unauthorised access and steal confidential data, thus improving government institutions as well as other sectors digital assets security.

As per a study, MFA (Multi Factor Authentication) market was valued at US $5.22 Billion in the year 2016. It is expected to rise $12.51 Billion by 2022 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 15.52 percent.

Authentication factors

Something that only the user knows – knowledge factors

Something that only the user has – possession factors

Something that only the user is – inherence factors

Why this security solution is important?

Standard online security procedures that require just username and passwords to authenticate a user are vulnerable to security breaches. With this simple form of login procedure, it has become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to compromise sensitive personal and financial data. Therefore, it is must to add an extra security layer; i.e. Two Factor Authentication security solution, as relying only on password-based authentication for digital security is not sufficient in today’s online world.

What benefits 2FA solution provide?

  • No Fraudulent Logins
  • Double checks user’s identity
  • Ensures peace of mind for both users and the system administrators
  • Alerts user in the form of a verification code when password gets compromised

 

Two Factor Authentication is intended to empower government institutions digital assets security by combining a strong password with additional level of security in the login procedure. Implementing Two Factor Authentication will ensure ‘no more unauthorised access to data of the authentic users’.

 

Two Factor Authentication is Utmost Priority for Government Institutions

Top Reasons Why Linux Server Needs 2FA

Linux is a secure and an open source OS (Operating System). Jack Wallen, a technical writer cum security expert, predicts that the market share of Linux server will cross 5% by the end of year 2017. With this increased market share in the coming days, it is obvious that the security risks, hacking incidents and vulnerabilities on this secure platform will be on the rise as well.

As per an analysis by GFI, the network and security solutions provider, Linux was one of the top three most vulnerable operating systems of the year 2014. Total 119 vulnerabilities were reported, 24 of which were rated as high-severity, 74 and 21 were rated medium and low vulnerabilities respectively. This analysis is based on the data from the US NVD (National Vulnerability Database). Therefore, the enterprises which are having Linux servers must take the security seriously, follow a proactive approach, and need 2FA solution for completely reducing/minimizing any kind of vulnerability in the future.

A total of 7,038 new security vulnerabilities were added to the NVD in the year 2014, which reflects that on an average 19 vulnerabilities were reported per day. Nearly 80% were reported in third-party applications, 13% in operating systems, and 4% in hardware devices.

All these statistics are enough to show that implementation of an additional security layer on the Linux servers and other online services is must for protection against threats. One of the best and proven security solutions that every enterprise and the end user need to enable is 2FA.

Brief of this solution

2FA (Two Factor Authentication) is a method that adds an additional security layer to the password-alone verification approach of login an account. This method verifies identity of a admin or end user through two independent factors, namely password and verification code. Every authentic end user knows the password (first factor), and the verification code (second factor) is sent to registered physical device of the user. This code remains active for less than a minute, and strengthens authentication.

If unluckily an intruder manages to know your password from any source, he won’t be able to get the privileges or access rights that you have. It is because he needs an additional factor along with the password to gain the access completely. Due to the use of two varied steps in the login procedure, 2FA security solution is also known as Two Step Verification.

Factors used for user authentication

Something that the user knows (knowledge factors)

Something that the user has (possession factors)

Something that the user is (inherence factors)

Possible reasons why 2FA is must for Linux server

Server admin and the end user can’t avoid using 2FA security solution in present scenario. Below are the possible reasons to use this proven method:

Increased Linux Usage and Vulnerabilities

The market share of Linux is on the rise, so are the vulnerabilities level on this powerful operating system. A recent report based on market share data and usage statistics shows that Linux is used by 37 percent of all websites available over the Internet. For reducing increasing vulnerabilities on Linux server, Two Factor Authentication (2FA) has been proved to be the best solution. It is because 2FA method is more than just password-only verification.

Dual Checks Identity

Along with advancement in technology standards in the last few years, there has also been an increase in identity theft cases globally. For logging in to Linux server admin panel, a valid username and password combination is required by default. If this password goes in the wrong hands, then gaining admin rights becomes extremely easier for an unauthorised user. But with 2FA solution, identity theft seems a tedious task because it dual checks identity, i.e. an extra verification step is involved in the login process.

Constant Fraudulent Logins

When it comes to guessing Linux server password, the intruders use various password cracking techniques like dictionary attack, brute force attack, social engineering, rainbow table attack, phishing, etc. The number of fraudulent logins increase on the server once the intruders guess the right password. To prevent this type of logins from happening constantly, 2FA has emerged as a powerful solution. As per a survey by TeleSign, 8 in 10 people are worried about the online security and 7 in 10 no longer rely on just password-only verification. Hence, Linux server need 2FA for added security and protection against fraudulent logins or several other malicious activities.

Unauthentic Impersonating themselves as Authentic

This is one of the major security issues associated with login in to a Linux server using just password-alone authentication. This type of authentication mechanism requires only password, and facilitates both unauthentic and authentic users to gain the access completely. To distinguish between both these users, it is must to enable 2FA security solution on all the Linux servers. With Two Factor Authentication, it becomes a complicated task for an unauthorized user to impersonate himself as an authentic user. The reason for this strong authentication is the use of an additional factor along with the password. 

Usage statistics for 2FA

The result from a study by SecureAuth, an access control company, shows that 99% of IT departments believe 2FA is the best solution to protect an identity and its access. This company also states that 81% of all confirmed security breaches involve stolen yet valid credentials.

56% of organizations worldwide are using 2FA solution either across the organization or in certain areas.

Two Factor Authentication (2FA) usage statistics for Drupal websites. 5,499 Drupal sites currently report using this security solution for different module categories: Mobile, Security, User Access & Authentication.

Additional tips for strengthening Linux server security

Secure the BIOS (Basic Input/output System)

For better Linux server security, make sure that your system cannot be booted from external sources like CD, DVD, floppy, etc. It is also important that no one else have access to GRUB (GNU GRand Unified Bootloader).

Access Remote Computers with SSH

SSH (Secure Shell or Secure Socket Shell) is the best way to ensure communications between two computers remotely. By default, SSH uses TCP port 22, so you can increase the security by choosing a higher numbered port.

Enable SELinux

SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) is an essential security module which is designed to protect overall Linux server security.

Patch the Operating System

It is extremely important that the operating system and several other packages installed must be kept up to date as it is the core of the environment. Without a secure operating system, most of the Linux server strengthening tips will be much less effective.

Apart from enabling 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) solution, the system administrators are required to follow these additional tips for getting the next level Linux server security.

Looking for 2FA Solution