By: Jonathan Edwards, Senior Director of Strategy, SecureITsource
As organizations scrambled to get remote workforces up and running over the past several months, companies saw their VPNs struggle to handle the sudden surge in usage — in fact we had a customer go from 3 percent to 80 percent Work from Home (WFH) basically overnight. Unsurprisingly, their VPN couldn’t handle the number of users that needed access and they had to abandon it. Rapid WFH scale-ups to, such as what we’ve seen recently, have only served to highlight the need for flexible – and scalable – Single Sign-On (SSO) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solutions.
When it comes to securing a remote workforce, SSO and MFA go hand in hand. SSO lets people use a single set of credentials to access their applications, while MFA adds an additional layer of authentication. While there are multiple reasons an organization might want to implement SSO/MFA methodologies — improved user experience and cost reduction for starters — making the change isn’t always an easy sell when it comes to convincing higher ups.
Why? For starters, not everyone in the organization has the same level of acceptable risk, especially when putting user experience into the mix. For many, the risk of alienating a potential customer with a poor user experience outweighs enhanced security measures. By way of example, it’s generally accepted that SMS isn’t secure, but there are still plenty of organizations that continue to use it.
Aside from enhanced security measures, one of the best things to emerge from SSO/MFA is a smooth user experience. Happy users mean happier employees and customers. A win-win for any business.
A 2016 LastPass survey found that on average people have over 190 passwords to remember. It follows that anything that reduces this number is a good thing. Fewer passwords to remember mean fewer calls to the Help Desk for a password reset and that translates to increased productivity. Unified standards are another benefit. They reduce blind spots, especially in the wake of an employee’s departure, and with less to manage, CISOs and their teams can focus their attention elsewhere.
Perhaps best of all, at least for CISOs, is the fact the standardized authentication that SSO offers helps reduce costs. Consider these facts: Each support ticket costs an organization $70. However, by implementing SSO/MFA, organizations can cut costs by more than $1000 per user, per year, and that doesn’t include the potential cost of a failed audit, which can run between $5,000 and $100,000 per month.
While SSO is a great start, layering in MFA gives organizations the ability to further validate users. As companies look to the future, they are starting to talk about things such as Bring Your Own Identity (BYOI), Zero Trust, and even passwordless authentication. The perimeter is changing and users need to be able to access their applications no matter where they sit, whether on-prem, in the cloud or even SaaS. Making to move to SSO/MFA fits the bill.
Implementing a strong IAM program might seem like a no brainer, but even with a host of benefits, some might be hesitant to make the jump. Luckily for today’s WFH environment, Okta, the leading independent provider of identity for the enterprise, makes the transition to SSO/MFA easy.
One of Okta’s strongest selling points is the fact that the Okta Integration Network (OIN) has than 6,500 (and counting) pre-integrated cloud apps are available. Thanks to Okta’s core value of “connect to everything,” you can bet that if one of your favorite business apps (niche and legacy applications, anyone?) isn’t in there today, there’s a good chance it will be tomorrow. With its broad range of deep, pre-built integrations and relatively short connection times, OIN has helped to revolutionize SSO/MFA, making it even easier to implement and manage a successful IAM program.
Over the years, I’ve learned that a smooth transition to a strong SSO/MFA program requires following some basic steps to ensure its long-term success:
1. Get business buy-in. Implementing identity-related programs can be intrusive to users so make sure your company understands the need and is onboard with your plan.
2. Create a steering committee to reduce friction and ensure that all business needs and requirements are met. Including decisions-makers from IT, security, business and application owner teams will go a long way to defining the roadmap for your IAM program.
3. Take inventory. Before you make any decisions make sure you know what your environment actually looks like so that you can find commonalities across the organization and make educated decisions on next steps.
Even with Okta making it easy, implementing SSO/MFA can be daunting. You’re not alone. We work with clients every day to help them succeed with their IAM program from providing agnostic advice on the status of your IAM program to offering hands-on assistance in building out your solution.
In a recent Webinar we highlighted how Okta makes it easy to navigate the IAM waters and shared some of the business factors behind moving to SSO/MFA. Have a listen to Three Keys to Identity Access Management with Okta. If you’re ready to start your IAM journey get in touch. We will be with you every step of the way to ensure a smooth transition to a strong SSO/MFA program.