Do Password Managers Really Help Businesses?
The need for comprehensive online security for individuals and businesses has never been more necessary. The virulence and frequency of malware and network attacks have increased, and the costs of a security breach have increased dramatically. In some business sectors, online security is a major component of compliance requirements.
The focus on password management has arisen in the last two years or so because of the increasing use of online e-commerce, working from home, and general remote access to systems. This has greatly increased the need for online security. Large organisations have found password management increasingly resource hungry and therefore costly.
They have been looking for ways to automate password management and reduce operational costs while improving security. Password Managers are one tool that can help.
Why do you need a Password Manager?
Businesses are especially vulnerable to security breaches because of poor password management. For example, Microsoft announced they suffered a cyberattack from a Chinese hacking group, Hafnium. Local governments, government organizations and corporations were all impacted by the attack, which targeted hundreds of thousands of on-premises servers running Microsoft’s Exchange email software throughout the United States. Hafnium used stolen passwords in addition to an unreported Exchange vulnerability to get access to the on-premises systems.
What is a Password Manager?
A password manager is a tool that helps security staff in IT generate, store, and manage user passwords. Passwords can be manually assigned by security staff, created by the user or automatically generated. Passwords are securely stored in an encrypted database. The password manager can also be programmed to force a password change at pre-defined intervals.
Automatically generated passwords are strong, unique passwords for each account, which reduces the risk of weak or reused passwords. Some password managers also offer additional security features, such as two-factor authentication and biometric authentication.
Password managers are useful for businesses and organizations. In a business setting, password managers can help control access to accounts and ensure compliance with security policies.
Risks Associated with Passwords
Over the years, one common theme in online security has been using user credentials based on a user-id and password. This, however, is one of the major weaknesses in online security. Studies have shown that users are very careless with the security of their passwords. Common faults include:
- They repeat the same one over multiple applications;
- They share them with colleagues;
- They write them down in an accessible place;
- They are easily guessable, perhaps based on a birthday, spouse’s or pet’s name;
- They never change them.
Businesses at first responded by centralising password security, including:
- User passwords are either issued centrally or must follow content rules such as length, use of symbols and upper and lower case. ;
- Having a regular forced change of password.
In addition, many businesses have now installed password management systems, since in a large organisation, password management can require a full-time resource.
Benefits of Using Password Managers
Password managers can be incredibly helpful for businesses. Here are a few reasons why:
Password managers can generate strong, unique passwords for each account, and users only need to remember one master password to access all their accounts. This reduces the risk of weak or reused passwords, which are common reasons for data breaches.
Even if users are allowed to create their own passwords, a password manager can apply criteria to the password. Length, the use of upper and lower case, and special characters are common criteria.
Forcing password renewals at regular intervals is also a good security practice.
Efficient access management
Password managers allow administrators to control access to accounts and revoke access when needed. This is particularly useful when employees leave the company or move to a different role that requires a different level of access.
It is all too common to find that users working their termination period or, perhaps even after departure can still access their corporate accounts. Equally, they still have access to applications relevant to their previous role after moving to a new one.
Simplified password sharing
Many password managers offer the ability to share passwords securely with other team members, which can be useful for shared accounts or team collaboration.
Team collaboration is increasingly important today, so managing and controlling password sharing is essential.
Some industries have strict regulations around password management, such as the healthcare and finance sectors. Using a password manager can help businesses meet these requirements and avoid potential penalties.
Are Password Managers Safe?
Reliable password managers are very hard to hack. Strong encryption is offered by password managers, acting as a powerful deterrent to online criminals. Strong encryption, like the industry-standard AES security used by the US government to protect its sensitive data, is used to protect many password managers.
Overall, password managers can help businesses improve their security posture, streamline access management, and meet compliance requirements.