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Bridging the Gap: The Essential Need for Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) in Internal Apps

4 minutes read
add mfa to internal apps.

In the current digital age, many businesses have incorporated formidable protection measures at critical gateways to safeguard their sensitive information. However, one area is often underestimated: the security of internal applications. Despite the escalating cybersecurity risks, numerous companies persistently shun the enforcement of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for their internal applications, especially when the users are on a corporate network or operating through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). As we tread into this new era of digital vigilance, it’s critical to comprehend and rectify these lax security protocols, while simultaneously balancing the user experience.

MFA for Internal Apps: A Necessity Not a Luxury

Applications today cover a wide array of functionalities, becoming more enmeshed within the operations than ever before. From 3-party ERP or CRM applications to homegrown line of business (LoB) applications, these applications form the backbone of our organisations’ digital infrastructure, no matter they are on-premises or in the cloud. The fact that these applications are meant for internal use does not render them immune to cyber threats. In reality, internal users might encounter cybersecurity threats just as much, if not more, than external users. Innocent actions, misplaced devices, or sophisticated phishing attacks could lead to data compromise. A common, yet perilous, assumption is that users are secure when on corporate networks or VPNs and thus exempt from MFA protocols.

The Dire Consequences of Not Using MFA for Internal Apps

Forgoing MFA for internal applications entails potential hazards. Two key consequences are worth highlighting: the risk of lateral movement by attackers and the dangers of insider threats.

Danger 1: Lateral Movement

When attackers infiltrate an organization’s systems, they often seek to extend their influence and control across the network, a strategy known as lateral movement. The attackers seek to transfer from relatively low-impact areas to high-value targets, such as databases with sensitive corporate data. If MFA isn’t enforced on internal apps, this movement across systems becomes vastly easier, hence increasing the potential for significant harm.

Danger 2: Insider Attacks

A less discussed but critical security threat stems from the insiders. A disgruntled employee, a negligent co-worker, or even a crafty corporate spy could wreak havoc within the secure company network. Relaxed MFA requirements for internal systems aggravate this risk by offering an open window for such malicious insider actions. MFA adds an extra layer of security and verification, preventing unauthorized access even from within the network.

MFA Fatigue: A Challenge to Reckon With

On the flip side, MFA fatigue is a valid concern. Too frequent authentication requirements may result in frustrated users who perceive it as a hindrance, leading to counterproductive workarounds that can compromise security. This dilemma leaves businesses grappling between maintaining robust security and providing a smooth user experience—an unenviable balancing act indeed.

Counteracting MFA Fatigue: Harnessing Modern Identity SSO Policies

The solution to MFA fatigue lies in leveraging modern identity Single Sign-On (SSO) policies. When effectively implemented, these policies can dramatically transform user experiences.

SSO enables users to authenticate just once to access multiple applications, thereby limiting the repetitive demands for authentication. Tailored application of these policies can pivot the needle towards convenience rather than constant vigilance, proving invaluable against MFA fatigue.

More advanced SSO policies allow for context-aware rules where MFA can be prompted based on potentially risky user behaviour, specific timeframes, geographies, or IPs. In this way, we’re not unduly burdening users with constant authentication requests, but seeking verification when it truly matters.

By embracing such context-aware enforcement of MFA, businesses can strike the delicate balance between robust security and seamless usability. Applying MFA judiciously can dramatically reduce unauthorized access while ensuring authentic users face minimal disruption in their workflows.

How Datawiza Can Help?

Datawiza provides a simple way to extend MFA to internal apps without code changes. It integrates with your preferred identity provider such as Microsoft Entra, Okta, Amazon Cognito, Cisco Duo, Ping Identity and others.

Eager for more information? Feel free to visit our solution page or book a demo to gain firsthand insight.