7 Ways to Protect the Digital Identity of Employees


Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Digital identity, also known as Identity 2.0, is everything that identifies a person or user online. Name, age, gender and other information such as occupation or level of education can be used to characterize them. On top of that, digital identity can also be defined by activity on social media, email and online signatures amongst other things. A person’s digital footprint is a bit like their reputation. More importantly though, it’s personal information that can be targeted by hackers.

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7 Ways to Protect the Digital Identity of Employees
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In a world where reliance on technology grows and digital identity theft becomes increasingly common, sufficient security measures are a must. Not only do employers need to keep sensitive company data safe, but they also need to protect their employees.  

With digital identity being such a fragile concept, robust policies need to be in place in the workplace. Here are 7 ways you can go about protecting your teams, whether they’re in-house or remote.

1. Continuously monitor threats

When it comes to crimes such as online identity theft, businesses and individuals are only aware after the crimes have taken place. For this reason, it’s important for security managers to recognize common threats such as phishing, pharming, malicious software, and unsecured websites and apps. Being prepared for the worst case scenario is essential in risk planning, and thorough risk assessments should be conducted regularly.

There are many different access points for thieves, including discarded computers or mobiles that haven’t had personally identifiable information (PII) wiped. So organizations need to be aware of every device being used, whether they’re company-owned or personal.

2. Take care of your remote workers

According to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, the most common identity theft cases are from credit card fraud (with over 167,000 reports of this happening in 2018). However, in recent months there has been a rise in COVID-19 related cases, with cybercriminals specifically targeting employees who are working from home.

As the use of employees’ own devices increases, the surface of attack widens for the business network. Not only are digital identities at risk, but so is sensitive company information. Security policies are necessary to prevent theft and malicious attacks, and all remote workers should be given the tools they need to conduct their work without compromising security.

3. Use SSO platforms for all business apps

As detailed in the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, a massive 80% of breaches are related to weak or stolen credentials. What’s alarming is the fact that many working professionals use the same passwords for business and personal use, which can lead to more data being compromised.

To improve identity protection in the workplace, it’s important to have secure passwords or eliminate multiple passwords with single sign-on (SSO) solutions. These services allow staff to access all of their necessary business apps and programs with just one login. Not only does this remove problems with password fatigue for individual users, but it also simplifies username and password management for your IT department.

Furthermore, SSO platforms will authenticate users and automatically manage access privileges for applications. This means no additional action is required when employees switch between them, making their day run smoothly and boosting productivity.

4. Enforce extra strong secure passwords

Adopting SSO dramatically reduces the amount of passwords you have to create, manage and remember. It also reduces the risk of password theft significantly as each team member only has one. However, strong passwords must be enforced.

How employees can create strong passwords:

  • Make it long – this is the most critical factor as short passwords are the easiest to crack. Passwords should have 15 characters or more. 
  • Use a mix of characters – as well as uppercase and lowercase letters, passwords should include different numbers and symbols. This makes it harder for brute force attacks to be carried out.
  • Make it random – avoid words, numbers or dates that are personal to you or your business. Password generators can be useful in creating completely random passwords that are hard to break.
  • Avoid common substitutions – passwords with letter/number substitutions (such as D00RB3LL instead of DOORBELL) are easy to hack. This is because cybercriminals are very aware of these types of passwords and brute force attackers will try every variation.
  • Use unique passwords – employees should never use the same password for business and personal accounts. All passwords must be unique.

5. Choose multifactor authentication   

If you’re looking to add an extra layer of security, it’s important to consider multifactor authentication (MFA). This technology leverages biometric and contextual factors to make the login process more secure. Not only does it protect your business and employees’ digital identities, but it also makes the user experience better.

Compared to two-factor authentication (2FA), multifactor authentication is much more advanced. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, MFA takes into consideration different behaviors, personal devices, levels of access and other attributes. Through adaptive authentication and contextual intelligence, MFA can identify users quickly and accurately while securing every access point to the business.

6. Provide company laptops 

To avoid the rising number of BYOD connected to the network, it’s best to provide employees with suitable laptops and devices. This avoids personal and business use being mixed, and also allows each employee to have access to their own SSO account or business apps.

Shared computers can be a risk if threats are internal. Company-owned devices can also be fully managed, updated and monitored by your IT department. This means you can be sure that laptops are installed with the best antivirus or anti-malware software, and that all updates and patches are up to date. Plus, when employees leave the company, the transition can be much easier as they won’t have any company information stored on their personal computer.

7. Train your employees about digital security

It’s not enough to just send out a security policy and hope that everyone will stick to the guidelines. Educating your teams on why these measures are important is vital. Make staff aware of the consequences of a data breach and the threats to their own digital identity.

Risky behavior such as using unprotected Wi-Fi networks, over-sharing personal or work details on social media, or accessing unsafe websites should be discussed openly. And best practice should be encouraged across all departments, including in-house teams, remote workers and contractors.

The lack of security on social media channels is especially important to highlight as these channels fall outside of network firewalls. It’s important that everyone knows about their digital footprint and how it can be used by criminals to access their private accounts.

Education is key to keeping your teams and your business protected. This should always be the first step when taking care of the digital identity of employees.

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