The Role of Access Governance in Preventing Phishing Attacks

    Of late, there has been quite a spike in instances of phishing attacks. Cybercriminals are engaged in phishing and social engineering to steal user credentials for business applications and VPNs, leveraging the worries of people about COVID-19.

    The credentials used for authentication are, essentially, an organization’s network perimeter. This puts businesses in a tough situation-they can restrict access to these services for workers and threaten detrimental effects on productivity and business continuity, or they can hope that nothing awful will happen. Many choose the latter, and internationally, the ramifications are being felt.

    Essentially, social engineering relies on harnessing strong emotions to influence individuals into taking actions that can hurt them. Cybercriminals rely on emotional reactions; emotionally charged content is more likely to lead to a successful attack.

    The Principle of Least Privilege

    Organizations are advised to consider limiting user access to services based on the concept of least privilege, or the absolute minimum access necessary to complete a job assignment. Least privilege is a strategy that has never been more relevant than it is today for access governance, especially because organizations rely on employees who work remotely. Essentially, if users have more access than necessary, they can unintentionally (or deliberately) violate the compliance specifications intended to safeguard the organization.

    Access governance is currently mostly characterized by default positions and permissions that are historically divided into classes (power user, administrator, etc.). This authorization categorization is related to authentication mechanisms such as models of username/password encryption that are heavily abused by phishing and social engineering by cybercriminals. Besides, if a phishing attack compromises a user’s credentials, then cybercriminals can access or obtain as much sensitive information as their victim’s role allows. This is precisely where the definition of least privilege falls into the frame.

    According to the least privilege principle, limiting data access provides enterprises with the tools they need to prevent major data breaches. Employees would need access to sensitive data, so how do organizations protect information that still falls under the principle of least privilege?

    The Concept of Zero Trust

    ‘Zero trust’ symbolizes trusting no one, presuming a threat at all access points, and never granting default access (e.g., a fixed role and privilege). Implementing a zero-trust IT culture ensures that a business can identify all devices, users, applications, and data in its ecosystem. Then the company should set up adequate controls that, where possible, will limit access. By implementing zero-trust identity and access controls, by maintaining a clear stance between who a person (employee) is and what they have access to, organizations reduce risk.

    Multi-Factor Authentication

    Part of building an efficient zero trust model involves finding strategies that empower organizations to apply contextual attributes when access is provided. Access controls based on attributes (ABAC) adapt to different situations and eventually decide how and when information can be accessed by users. Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication (adaptive MFA), which requires additional authentication as users move across systems or applications, takes these attributes.

    With a broad base of remotely working staff, businesses may want to incorporate adaptive MFA so that their ERP systems can be safely authenticated by finance or human resources personnel. Adaptive MFA can detect anomalous locations or times of operation, trigger an additional method of authentication, and prevent the actor from having malicious access. Ultimately, the company, the individual with nearly leaked information, and the worker whose credentials were stolen are secured by adaptive MFA and Zero-trust.


    Firms have been trying for years to protect themselves from phishing attacks. In an age of mental, social, and physical upheavals, what they did not do is protect themselves. But the recent upward trend in phishing attacks should come as no surprise to organizations. Cybercriminals, whether digital or human, are often on the lookout to take advantage of any loopholes in the IT setting. Data security solutions available in the market, by offering the latest identity and access management technologies, ensure that organizations’ data is secured.

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