With more and more services moving to the cloud, all of us are being asked to create and manage more accounts than ever before. And although we’ve all probably heard security experts tell us, “Don’t reuse passwords,” this can be difficult as the number of usernames and passwords increases. All the while, additional protection is more important than ever as more cloud services are being comprised. The reality is not a matter of if but when your cloud service will be breached, so proactive password management to mitigate security risks is necessary.
Even with the new password guidelines from NIST, which turn traditional password methodology on its head and will likely make business practices easier, users are going to be hard pressed to implement unique passwords for every site they have today. Therefore, password managers and single sign-on (SSO) solutions can be useful to home and business users alike.
Single sign-on brings hardline benefits to enterprises
SSO technologies are being integrated both on premises and in the cloud to tie together company resources. SSO asks users to authenticate once and be automatically signed into services they require. While password managers help organize disparate user accounts, SSO collapses the number of accounts users are required to manage.
In all enterprise environments, integrating SSO technologies brings multiple advantages:
- Significantly less burden for the end user because users only login once
- Strong multifactor authentication helps protect the keys to the kingdom
- Security and ease of use increases as SAML-enabled cloud services are no longer storing passwords
- Centralized reporting and auditing of user activity and account access
Hints of the future are starting to emerge
Luckily, the future of passwords is starting to shift as mobile technologies mature and alternate methods of authentication become viable. Much innovation surrounds the mobile devices we already carry in our pockets. For example, the Microsoft Authenticator gives the ability to sign into your account using only your email and mobile push notification via an authenticator app. With easily accessible tools such as this, it is not hard to imagine a future where users authenticate using their mobile device (something you have) and biometric data (something you are) in place of a password. This way users could gain SSO access to all the services and applications they require with little effort.
There are also many services available today that integrate adaptive authentication techniques to make intelligent decisions about user authentication. A user’s location, device, login tendencies, time of day, and many other factors can be used in combination with traditional security policies to grant or deny access to resources.
The days of authenticating your identity solely by something you know are numbered. While traditional passwords will persist for the foreseeable future, the pain associated with memorizing passwords is avoidable now. Little by little, the deprecation of passwords and the growth of SSO will provide countless benefits to users, businesses and the pocket books of both.