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

Two Factor Authentication– End Your Worries About Insecure Passwords

For the online security, Two Factor Authentication is the most widely used security technique in the present scenario where hacking incidents are on the rise. Most of the end users worldwide use only a single protection layer; the password, for preventing their online accounts from getting compromised by intruders. But, this single layer is not so secure, as it can be easily breached using brute force or several other methods the attackers use. With 1FA becoming increasingly unreliable as a security measure, due to this reason Two Factor Authentication is rapidly gaining importance for logging into the online accounts.

Some statistics determining password is a weak link

Cybersecurity Ventures report says, “more than 3 billion passwords were stolen in the year 2016. It comes to 8.2 million passwords stolen every day and nearly 95 passwords stolen per second”.

StopTheHacker says, “Hackers take only 10 minutes to compromise a lowercase password that is six characters long. An addition of two extra letters with uppercase letters and number combination takes 3 years”. This shows that more letters (lowercase & uppercase, numbers and special characters) you use in a password, more years the hackers require to compromise it.

A recent report says 80% of all businesses suffered from some sort of computer hack over the past 1-2 years.

After taking these statistics into consideration, it seems password is the only weak link that results in the online accounts compromise. Strengthening password by adding an extra protection layer is the key to a better digital security. With Two Factor Authentication mechanism, you need not worry about the password security. It is because a hacker will not be benefitted even if he knows your primary login credentials; username and password combination.

What exactly this mechanism is?

Two Factor Authentication, abbreviated as 2FA, is a security mechanism in which the end users are required to provide two varied factors for proving their identity while accessing an online service. These authentication factors are in the form – password and verification code. The verification code, being a second authentication factor, is sent to the registered physical device the user is in possession with. This code expires within a few seconds, and the user will receive a different code after every login attempt. 2FA is also called Two Step Verification process.

How this mechanism works?

Two Factor Authentication is a highly secure way of proving your identity over the Internet. We use this authentication mechanism in our daily life. The most common examples include withdrawing cash through ATM (offline mode) and paying with a credit/debit card (online mode). In both these modes you require not only your card, but also a secret PIN to prove your identity and complete the transaction successfully. If unluckily any other person steals your card, then you should not get tensed because your card having with someone else is not the only requirement for carrying out a successful transaction. In fact, he must know your secret PIN as well.

The same case applies to the online accounts login procedure. If your password goes in the hands of an attacker, then logging in to the account won’t be possible, as he needs a second factor; verification code, for authentication. For getting this code, he requires access to your physical device at the same time. While being a bit of a hassle, Two Factor Authentication mechanism enhances security level by asking for an additional authentication factor, thus making it an extremely complicated task for a hacker to access your online account.

Why and where you should use this mechanism?

The foremost purpose of Two Factor Authentication method is to prevent prying eyes from all sorts of unauthorized access without compromising the security level. Imagine the situation if anyone hacks your password, then he can easily have access to your online accounts, sensitive data, alternative email addresses, banking information, etc. But if you have Two Factor Authentication in place, then hacking the password is useless for a hacker, as he won’t be allowed to access your data and information.

Two Factor Authentication is used for the security of –

  • Banking and Finance
  • Mailing accounts
  • Social media accounts
  • Any type of cloud storage service
  • Online payment and shopping accounts

Various types of authentication factors

  • Knowledge factors (something you know)
  • Possession factors (something you have)
  • Inherence factors (something you are)
  • Time and Location factors – geolocation

Turning on Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is the user’s choice, but as per a stat, 86% of people globally who use 2FA feel their online accounts and data are more secure.

Best practices for the password security

  • Create unique passwords for all your online accounts. To secure yourself, use a password manager or Single sign-on where possible.
  • Keep changing the passwords at regular time interval. Use of Two Factor Authentication mechanism allows to compensate for lack of regular password changes.
  • Using a common system weakens the password security. However, in the context of security, a reasonably complex system serves better than reusing a single password.
  • Choose a strong password using special characters, symbols, letters both uppercase and lowercase. Beware of dictionary attacks and don’t use the things that can be easily guessed by the attackers.
  • It’s complex to prevent the chain reaction. This attack works regardless of how complex your password is. Enabling a secure Two Factor Authentication method for all the accounts that support it, the hacker won’t be able to reset your password or even log in to account with the password he knows.

With Two-Factor Authentication security method, even if your password is not so strong, your account is highly safe & secure against all sorts of breaches, as a hacker needs to prove his identity using a second factor along with the password.