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Cloud Security: Blog Post

Multi-Factor Authentication By @TorbenA | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Executives must not relegate security to the IT department and assume all is well; they must be active participants

Multi-Factor Authentication: Eight Considerations for CXOs

For business leaders today, it's not enough to drive company growth, seek competitive advantages and provide vision. In this era of advanced cyberattacks, executives also need to keep their companies' data security strategies top of mind. The Ponemon Institute's 2014 Cost of Data Breach Study reports that the average cost of a data breach to a company was $3.5 million, a 15 percent increase over last year. Then there is the cost of reputation damage to factor in as well. Organizations cannot afford, on any front, to be lax in their security strategies.

Executives must not relegate security to the IT department and assume all is well; they must be active participants. Leaders ultimately take responsibility for the organization's performance, and negative events that impact stakeholders also impact the leaders' longevity as well. Target's CEO left on the heels of the recent large-scale hack of customer data, suggesting a correlation between the two events.

C-suite executives need to understand why awareness of and involvement in their companies' security strategies is critical. They also must understand why authentication is a necessary and effective element of security strategy. There are many reasons to include multi-factor authentication as an effective tactic against loss of brand reputation, loss of customers and loss of trust.

Taking an Active Role in Security
It's tempting to assume that the team leads in IT and security have everything handled, leaving the executive to focus on more traditional business-related responsibilities. That assumption is wrong and dangerous. The second a breach occurs, the entire business suffers the fallout, from loss of customer (or shareholder) confidence to damaged brand reputation. Therefore, responsible CXOs shouldn't assume that IT has it handled. They must instead seek to understand exactly how company and employee assets are being protected.

CXOs don't need to manage every detail here; they just need to educate themselves about how their companies are actively taking steps to protect corporate reputation and integrity while keeping an eye on the bottom line. After all, if the company is breached, it is the CXO who will have to answer those uncomfortable questions from the media.

CXOs can avoid nightmare media scenarios by ensuring the safety of customer information assets in a way that stays ahead of today's advanced threats. They must also ensure adherence to corporate goals by developing and executing strategies that increase profit margins and drive down the costs of doing business. Such overarching goals cannot be left to the team leads; success must be managed at the executive level.

Make Security a Priority
Business leaders are responsible for setting the organization's vision and then leading their teams to bring it to reality. It's easy to focus on the bread and butter of corporate leadership, whether it's maximizing shareholder value or creating the best widget possible. Yet security is a vital component of business success as well, and change comes from the top. If upper management doesn't explicitly prioritize security in a meaningful way, it's more likely that IT departments will take more of a check-the-box approach to security as they focus on the projects given overt precedence.

Incentivizing Security
One of the most effective ways to make security a business priority is to create meaningful incentives for its deployment and management. IT and security teams should be compensated and recognized based on how airtight the network is. Fortunately, there are ways to secure access to company and employee data that fit in with the corporate budget, turning security into an ROI center as well.

To help prevent loss of brand reputation and loss of trust, a key component of this comprehensive security plan must be a multi-factor authentication strategy. Such a strategy will mitigate the attacks that threaten user confidence, such as identity theft. TCO must be taken into account, as well as the ease of integration with remote access systems and cloud applications. The ideal strategy will take into consideration factors that include a low footprint, high security, high automation and high value.

Multi-Factor Authentication: Eight Factors to Consider
For executives not yet convinced that multi-factor authentication is the way to go, these facts should be cause for reconsideration:

  1. Hackers readily use weak or stolen user credentials in 76 percent of all network breaches.
  2. The number of targeted attacks went up by 42 percent from 2012 to 2013, and it increased a whopping 62 percent from 2013 to 2014. Not only that, they also took longer to be discovered and ended up costing the victim companies 30 percent more money. In short, hackers are winning the war.
  3. Banking, gaming, social media, email and other online service providers have adopted SMS-based tools to effectively authenticate their users when accessing their systems. If it's important to them, it should be important to your business as well.
  4. Now more profitable than drug-related crimes, identity theft is the fastest-growing type of crime, accounting for $24.7 billion dollars.
  5. Malicious actors do not discriminate based on size. Not only big brands get hit; 31 percent of all targeted attacks were aimed at businesses with less than 250 employees.
  6. Without user authentication, a company's vulnerability tests, advanced firewalls and anti-virus systems are not enough. The front door stands wide open to intruders.
  7. Malicious actors do more than just steal data; they often use servers to transmit propaganda, spam or malicious code. They also destroy data and change programs or services.
  8. Hackers are always finding more effective ways to steal passwords via pharming, keylogging, phishing and other methods.

A Holistic Security Approach
As the financial and reputation costs of data breaches escalate, security must be foremost in the minds of CXOs. They must take an active role in the organization's overall security strategy to make sure that everything possible is being done to keep company information safe while keeping the budget in mind as well. Without strong authentication standards in place, hackers can take advantage of user credentials to breach security and cause mayhem. Multi-factor authentication is a key element of an organization's overall cybersecurity strategy that adds an additional layer of data protection.

More Stories By Torben Andersen

Torben Andersen is globally responsible for Sales and Marketing at SMS PASSCODE. Prior to joining SMS PASSCODE, Torben held positions including Chief Commercial Officer at Better Place Denmark, where he oversaw all aspects of the commercial launch of Better Place’s solution in Denmark. Before joining Better Place he spent over 14 years in various leadership roles within Microsoft Denmark, EMEA, and Global.

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