One of the most basic and essential features of cybersecurity is the password. It’s needed to access all accounts and networks, meaning all data is—or should be—password protected at some level. But password security involves more than just tasking employees with making up original passwords that are hard to guess. It’s no wonder companies of all shapes and sizes depend on password management tools to help keep all of their sensitive information safe.
But what makes for effective password management? Which features should you look for when shopping for a tool, or set of services, to keep your passwords at maximum security?
What to Look for in a Password Management Tool
Every company relies on passwords for its cybersecurity. The extent and ways in which passwords work within a given company will depend on the various networks, servers, devices, and other digital resources it uses on a daily basis. However, a key component of protecting your business, and all its stakeholders, is ensuring the fidelity of access and authentication.
This guide will walk you through the three main features of password management software that are needed to achieve this fidelity:
- Password strength
- Password encryption
- Multi factor authentication
We’ll also touch on the ways that an all-in-one solution can provide all these features at once, along with optimal efficiency as a bonus.
But first, let’s consider why these features are so necessary.
Why is Password Management Important?
Passwords are the keys that unlock access to your most valuable and sensitive information. The locks they open are sealed off to anyone who can’t authenticate themselves by providing secret information (a password) that only they know. But that secret information needs to be protected.
There are three main ways cybercriminals try to compromise password protection:
- Educated guesswork – A cybercriminal trying to access a company’s networks may begin by trying to guess passwords to accounts, wifi connections, or other systems that authentication could grant access to. Their efforts are aided by weak passwords, like those containing biographical information or default combinations (1234, etc.).
- Assisted guesswork – No matter how well a human brain can narrow down options and try to guess a password, a dedicated algorithm can do it more efficiently. It can also flood an access portal with millions of combinations. “Cracking” utilizes computer programs to test all possible password combinations until access is granted.
- Theft and fraud – When guessing won’t work, robbery often will. Cybercriminals often attempt hacks or use social engineering scams (like phishing) to steal passwords directly or trick unsuspecting users into disclosing their credentials.
Most insidiously, these attacks can happen at passive or more aggressive, targeted levels. And a targeted attack on a given company’s password security could leverage all three vectors.
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What Optimum Password Management Software Offers
In order to protect your company from the various threats detailed above, you’ll need to invest in dedicated tools and practices that make up a robust password management plan.
You want a system that ensures the strength of your passwords to safeguard against guessing and cracking. But you also need to encrypt them for safety in the event of a hack or leak. Finally, you need to embrace a system that relies on more than just passwords themselves.
Let’s take a closer look at the individual features that make a password management tool or overall system especially effective:
Password (and Passphrase) Strength
In order to stop cybercriminals from guessing or cracking passwords, it’s essential to maintain password strength. A strong password management system should have multiple tools built in to both train employees on password strength and require them to uphold best practices.
What makes a password strong? It comes down to a combination of factors:
- Length, such as a minimum of 8 or more characters
- Complexity, including multiple character types
- Frequent updates, ideally on a monthly basis
- No stock combinations or biographical information
- Multi word phrases, incorporating spaces
Of all these potential requirements, the last could be the most important. Utilizing a passphrase with multiple words or combinations of characters, including spaces, makes a password or credential exponentially harder for a human (or computer) to guess.
Password Hashing and Encryption
In the event of a hack or other scenario in which passwords are stolen, their strength becomes inconsequential. Instead of focusing entirely on password strength, a strong password management system should also make encryption (password hashing) a top priority.
Password hashing is a form of encryption that stores passwords in a form other than the actual characters a user enters to gain access via a login portal. It works by converting the string of characters the user inputs into a different combination that’s unreadable to human eyes. The encrypted password is algorithmically generated and bears no resemblance to the original.
To prevent even encrypted passwords from being compromised, a password management tool may incorporate additional tricks like “salting.” In this method, additional data is added to passwords pre-encryption, which makes cracking the encryption even more challenging.
Ultimately, passwords themselves are not the answer. No matter how strong a password is, and no matter how air tight its encryption may be, it is still just one factor standing in the way of cybercriminals’ potentially unfettered access to your resources. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) attempts to answer that problem by relying on more than one credential.
MFA is a crucial component of any password management software. It requires users to authenticate using a combination of:
- Something you know, like a password
- Someplace you are, measured by GPS
- Something you have, like a secondary device
- Something you are, including biometric scans
MFA works such that, when entering a password, the user will be prompted to authenticate at least a second factor. For example, an activation code may be sent to a device owned by the user, or the user may need to use a biometric scanner to verify their eye or fingerprint.
All-in-one Managed Cybersecurity
The absolute best way to combine the three features above and compound their security efficacy is to streamline your cyberdefense in one unified framework. Using a combination package like RSI Security’s managed IT security services allows you to incorporate password management throughout every level of your cybersecurity architecture.
Our suite of services implements password management throughout various other safeguards, including but not limited to:
- Firewalls and proactive web filtering
- Compliance with regulatory guidelines
- Cybersecurity patch management
- Threat detection and response
- Penetration testing and analytics
With professional help and an all-in-one package, password security is no longer one piecemeal item you struggle to integrate throughout your various systems. Instead, it works together seamlessly with all other security measures you have in place.
Professionalize Your Cyberdefense with RSI Security
At RSI Security, we know how important password management is to the safety of your company. We also know it’s not the end of cybersecurity, but just the start. That’s why we incorporate password management into a broader suite of optimized cyberdefense services that we’ll custom tailor to the specific needs and means of your business. Our team of experts has over a decade of experience providing cybersecurity solutions to companies of all shapes and sizes.
Whether you need help with general access and authentication, troubleshooting for compliance, or any other issues with your entire cybersecurity architecture, we’re your first and best option. To see what a difference premium password management tools and overall managed security can make at your company, contact RSI Security today.