How to Protect Your Digital Identities from Phishing Attacks

How to Protect Your Digital Identities from Phishing Attacks

How can identity and access management help mitigate and prevent phishing attacks? How do phishing attacks normally work, and how can they damage your enterprise without identity and access management to protect you? 

Phishing attacks remain one of the most versatile and devastating tools in the hackers’ arsenal. All it takes is a few minutes to craft an email that looks enough like a legitimate message from a real institution. It doesn’t necessarily need to look perfect. Instead, it needs to look similar enough to fool the eye and convey a sense of urgency to provoke poor decision-making. A simple redirect link to a fake site for collecting credentials, sent out en masse, and then the hackers can just wait. 

Eventually, someone will fall for it. Alternatively, with a spear-phishing attack, hackers craft the perfect message to trick a specific user (often someone with powerful permissions). These can prove harder to detect and much more damaging over time.   

However, your business is not powerless against phishing attacks. In fact, a few critical identity and access management capabilities can mitigate the effectiveness of phishing. 

Here’s what they are. 

Identity Management Capabilities to Mitigate Phishing Attacks

Multifactor Authentication 

First, traditional phishing attacks depend on getting a user’s username and password. In most cases, these factors are enough to bypass single-factor authentication and gain access. In part, phishing represents one of the key reasons why cybersecurity experts think passwords are weak. 

With multifactor authentication (MFA), phishers can’t just access accounts even with passwords. They need to pass other credentials tests, some passive and some active. For example, this capability monitors users to make sure they log in from a recognized geographic location (geofencing) and during baseline work hours (time of access monitoring). If a phisher doesn’t pass these requirements, then the login fails and incident response can begin. 

Additionally, biometric data proves much harder to steal than passwords, so implementing biometric authentication can help mitigate phishing efficiency. Hard tokens and SMS messaging also offers authentication factors which are harder to spoof. 

What matters is that all of these factors are present. The more factors between the access request and the granting of access, the more security you gain against hackers and phishing attacks. 

Role Management (The Principle of Least Privilege) 

Often, role management appears in identity governance and administration (IGA) solutions as a critical capability. Yet it matters to all branches of identity and access management, especially when facing phishing emails. After all, if phishing attacks get credentials, they gain access to everything those credentials can open. If the credentials aren’t limited by the job of the user, for example by having leftover permissions from a temporary project, then the damage the attack wreaks. 

In other words, you need identity management capabilities and policies that enforce the Principle of Least Privilege. The less permission your employees carry, the less hackers have to exploit. This applies as much to privileged users as regular users and third parties (if not more so). 

Continuous Authentication 

Of course, hackers can subvert even the strongest authentication and authorization protocols eventually. Granted, they may need special tools, experience, and time, but eventually they could do so. So you need an IAM tool that helps prevent hackers even beyond the login portal. 

This is where continuous authentication steps in. This evaluates users’ behaviors compared to an established baseline often through behavioral biometrics. Hackers may have the right credentials, but each individual types in a particular manner that is not easily replicated. This can help stop phishing attacks before they fully unfold. 

You can learn more in our Identity Management Buyer’s Guide

Ben Canner

Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.
Ben Canner