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5 Ways Adaptive Authentication Can Protect Your Business From Cyberattacks

Tony Caccavo, Esq. is a former educator, attorney, and the CEO of TeamPassword, a password management company. He believes cybersecurity tools and information should be made accessible, to better protect individuals, companies, and society at large.

May 9, 202411 min read

Cybersecurity

Businesses are always looking for ways to improve cybersecurity, but those improvements can come at a cost to accessibility and productivity. 

A zero-trust approach to security is great for protecting your business against cyberattacks but can become a barrier to user experience—especially when it comes to user verification and secure access. 

Adaptive authentication is an intelligent verification system that utilizes ongoing risk assessment to determine a user's login credentials and access permissions.

Instead of a static, one-size-fits-all solution like multi-factor authentication, adaptive authentication is a risk-based authentication method that offers a way to streamline access for trusted users.

In this article, we’ll discuss what adaptive authentication is and how you can utilize it to protect your business from cybersecurity threats.

[Table of Contents]

    1. Strengthens cybersecurity across your business
    2. Provides intelligent user access controls
    3. Improves the employee user experience
    4. Highly customizable for your business's unique needs
    5. Provides a better customer experience while keeping customers safe

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How does adaptive authentication work?

Adaptive authentication determines access to organizational systems based on user-defined, ongoing, and dynamic risk assessment. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. A user (employee or customer) inputs their login credentials.
  2. The adaptive authentication system goes into assessment mode, looking at risk factors such as user location, their device, an employee’s level of access, etc. 
  3. Adaptive authentication determines whether this user’s interaction involves high or low-risk activities.
  4. If the interaction is high-risk, the user in question is sent an authentication request to provide additional authentication methods that confirm user identity.
  5. Low-risk activities are determined safe, and the user is allowed access without providing multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  6. The adaptive authentication process doesn’t end there; user behavior is continually assessed throughout interactions for signs of suspicious activity, building a risk profile for each user. Users might be prompted to log in again, provide additional verification, or be blocked from access at any time based on ongoing risk assessment.

MFA is an important aspect of adaptive authentication. 

The point of adaptive authentication is to tighten organizational security while improving user accessibility. 

Trusted employees performing low-risk interactions aren’t asked to jump through additional verification hoops to do their jobs. And customers are allowed a more user-friendly experience when accessing their accounts from usual locations and devices. 

Adaptive authentication uses intelligent risk assessment to streamline and control access.

The risk assessment process is both user-defined by your business and adaptive in real-time using machine learning and predictive models. 

User-defined risk factors can include:

  • An employee’s level of access in the company: organizations often set access controls for various levels of information sensitivity.
  • The IP address and geographical location of the login attempt: companies might only allow access to sensitive information on-site and from work networks.
  • The device the user is trying to log in from: for employees, this might mean the difference between a company-issued laptop and a personal laptop. For customers, this might mean a different device than usual.
  • Multiple failed login attempts: organizations can block access after a certain amount of failed attempts.

After user-defined risk factors, AI can take over the authentication process with real-time monitoring. Adaptive authentication uses machine learning algorithms to learn from past user behavior to predict future behavior.

For example, if an employee is trying to log into your contact center solutions providers’ business portal but has multiple security incidents on their record, the system might look at the information they’re trying to access, determine its sensitivity, and deem that user a risk. 

Once the risk criteria are assessed, adaptive authentication determines whether the user should provide MFA or be locked out of the system entirely.

Some password managers, like TeamPassword, use adaptive authentication. Account administrators can set each employee's level of access by setting their user role to limit what information the user can see. They can also assign the user to specific groups of records, thereby limiting what accounts the user has access to.

Password managers often use back-end fraud analytics to monitor user-account access. For instance, a user may be prompted to enter a secondary MFA code if AI determines that a login attempt is a high risk due to the geographic impossibility of recent login attempts or if the attempt was made from an unrecognized device. 

The point of adaptive authentication is to tighten organizational cybersecurity while creating a more streamlined and accessible experience for users.

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5 ways adaptive authentication can protect your business from cyberattacks

Now that we understand adaptive authentication, let’s look at the benefits it can bring to your organization. 

1. Strengthens cybersecurity across your business

Often, the weakest link in any cybersecurity infrastructure is its users. 

According to IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report, phishing attacks were the most common attack vector for organizations, accounting for 16% of all data breaches. 

Phishing attacks were also the second most costly cyber threat to businesses, after ransomware attacks.

Multi-factor authentication arose as a solution to this issue, but MFA can create friction for users while still having the same vulnerabilities as password-only security.

Adaptive authentication creates additional layers of security based specifically on user data and behavior. 

It tackles the weakness head-on, allowing your organization to set the risk factors while also utilizing machine learning to learn, predict, and adapt based on user behavior. 

By utilizing user behavior as a learning tool, adaptive authentication creates a stronger cybersecurity environment across your entire organization.

2. Provides intelligent user access controls

Access management is important to a business’ internal cybersecurity. 

Access controls manage which employees are allowed secure access to which tools based on user authority and information sensitivity.

Adaptive authentication strengthens access controls by taking those risk factors into account when authenticating. 

For example, if a customer support employee with low-security access tries to log into customer financial data, they could be asked to provide an additional layer of security or become blocked from access. This generally works to secure sensitive information.

But if that employee requires this data to quickly resolve a customer issue, you’ve created a barrier to their ability to do their job. They might not have the ability to provide MFA on hand or they might be denied access outright. 

Then, the whole customer support process is ground to a halt, upsetting the customer and potentially affecting your call center service level.

Adaptive authentication can help by determining:

  • The employee’s location

  • The device they’re logging in from

  • The employee’s role in the company

  • The employee’s user access history

  • The employee’s past behavior when accessing information outside of their usual permissions

The adaptive authentication system might decide the user passes all these risk criteria and allow access to the sensitive information without any additional barriers.

Often, the first line of defense against a cyberattack is the password protecting the account. That's why and advanced password manager built specifically for teams, like TeamPassword, is essential to any business security plan. Password managers allow users to create unique, strong passwords for every account and a way to share and limit access to login credentials so that only the users who need access have access. 

Access to your organization’s systems isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution—adaptive authentication creates a more streamlined and intelligent system of authentication.

3. Improves the employee user experience

Improving your employee experience is an important part of cybersecurity awareness.

Preventing cyberattacks is a company-wide endeavor, with everyone from entry-level employees to cybersecurity experts to C-suite leaders working towards a common goal. 

It’s easier to get everyone on board when a system makes their lives easier. 

Intelligent access controls streamline access to systems and tools, removing unnecessary barriers to an employee’s ability to do their job. This cuts down on frustration and wasted time, improving employee morale and productivity, while keeping security at the forefront.

4. Highly customizable for your business’ unique needs

Each business’ cybersecurity needs are different, and adaptive authentication offers plenty of flexibility.

Your organization can set up its own risk factors based on authentication requirements, industry standards, employee access controls, user roles, whether you’ve conducted legacy application modernization, and the sensitivity of the data you handle. 

Like we said earlier, cybersecurity isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Adaptive authentication has the flexibility to suit your unique organizational needs.

5. Provides a better customer experience while keeping customers safe

When multi-factor authentication became the norm, it seemed like a perfect solution to the growing problem of weak passwords, phishing attacks, and cybersecurity breaches.

Unfortunately, MFA can be frustrating. It’s a good solution with a sometimes clunky implementation. 

As a customer, logging into shopping apps and websites can become exasperating. A customer inputs their login credentials and a notification pops up saying a code has been texted to their mobile device.

Then, the customer realizes their mobile phone is at the other end of the house. Or that they changed their number and forgot to update their personal details. Or that juggling the text screen and the app on their phone while trying to input a long series of digits is actually super irritating.

It’s a frustrating customer experience.

Customers who become frustrated with MFA might simply turn off all extra security steps. This puts customers and businesses at risk of financial and data losses.

Adaptive authentication works to create a better system. 

It considers risk factors such as customer location (is it different from their usual locations?) and user device (is it a device they’ve never logged in from before?) to determine if the customer’s login is suspicious. If the login is determined to be safe, the customer is spared multi-factor authentication.

This can help create a more streamlined customer experience. 

It also helps to protect customers who don’t have additional devices or pathways to set up MFA, or those who don’t have the tech literacy to feel comfortable with MFA. 

Adaptive authentication creates a more accessible experience for all customers while still emphasizing password security and proper authentication.

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Why adaptive authentication is essential to cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is integral to modern business operations. From small businesses that use a work Wi-Fi network to global enterprises with software, social media accounts, and remote workers, the cost of ignoring cybersecurity is high.

Cyberattacks can cause businesses financial, reputational, and legal harm. Anything you can do to tighten up your cybersecurity is a win.

Adaptive authentication is a solution with two major benefits—it strengthens your organizational security and improves the user experience. 

Adaptive authentication can provide user-defined risk assessment to meet every business’ unique needs. It can also continue to protect your systems using AI predictive models that provide ongoing, real-time risk assessment.

Don’t leave any weak spots in your cybersecurity systems. Implement adaptive authentication for a safer, more streamlined operation. 

Protect Your Business with TeamPassword's Adaptive Authentication

Now that you know what adaptive authentication is and that you need it, you may be wondering where to begin. A great place to start is by using a password manager built specifically for teams. 

Whether you're looking to protect your business from insider threats or third-party data breaches, a password manager streamlines your team's access while protecting those accounts from unauthorised users, or worse, malicious actors. Password managers, like TeamPassword, use Adaptive Authentication and fraud analytics to challenge users who log in from impossible locations, in unusual patterns, or at weird times. 

With TeamPassword's user-friendly interface and adaptive authentication, you can rest easy knowing your business is protected. Don't believe us? Sign up for a free 14-day trial today and try it yourself.

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