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Cybercrime continues to increase at an unprecedented rate. A survey reported that in the third quarter of 2022, there were around 15 million cybercrime cases, 167% higher than in just the previous quarter. This crime reached an all-time high during the fourth quarter of 2020 at 125 million cases.

Attacks from social engineering and ransomware increased as cybercriminals learned more advanced methods on top of internal concerns that significantly raise an organization’s vulnerability, such as misconfigurations, human error, poor maintenance, and unknown assets.

At this pace, 83% of companies believe they are all prone to cybercrime, and it’s only a matter of time before they fall victim to it. These statistics prompted them to install more sophisticated security measures to ensure the safety of their data. Today, one authentication method that has gained tremendous traction is step-up authentication.

What is Step-Up Authentication?

Step-up authentication is setting up additional levels of authentication as users access several layers of information. Organizations do this to ensure that only authorized users get access to high-risk information.

What is step-up authentication’s primary purpose?

Step-up authentication is critical in securing your company’s highly sensitive data and resources. However, the efficiency of this security system depends on your security needs and data sensitivity levels.

This system is particularly effective among organizations with various data sensitivity levels. It provides general access to users with minimal login credentials while continuously elevating security measures as users request access to more crucial company data and resources.

What is step-up authentication’s difference from multiple-factor authentication (MFA)?

Step-up authentication is often mistaken for MFA. Their main difference is in their occurrence. MFA requires multiple authentication methods every time a user logs in. Meanwhile, step-up authentication only appears once triggered by an attempt to enter a database with more sensitive data.

How Does Step-Up Authentication Work?

Step-up authentication allows general users to access certain data through user-provided credentials, such as a username and password. However, as they need access to high-risk information, the system will require them to undergo additional authentication.

For instance, employees can access and use company data and resources to work on their regular tasks. But if they need access to sensitive company data and resources that can cause significant damage when exposed or tampered with, the system will require extra authentication measures.

Benefits of Step-up Authentication

Step-up authentication is an effective balance between security and accessibility. It provides easy access to one layer of data or resources while securing the safety of more sensitive data. Users only need minimal credentials to access low-tier or generally available company data and resources using a multi-layer authentication system.

This process eliminates the need for general users to undergo complex authentication that may sometimes result in work delays. Such delays impact a company’s efficiency and employees’ intrapersonal relationship when access to information is not readily provided, especially when crucial decisions rely on these pieces of information.

6 Activities that Trigger Step-up Authentication

Step-up authentication adopts heightened security measures relative to the risk level of the data or resources at stake due to the rising cases of identity theft, which increased by 68% from 2021. These security measures work to single out any possibility of a data breach by someone posing as an authorized user.

1. Multiple entries of wrong login credentials

Too many login attempts using incorrect information can trigger step-up authentication by sending the user an email link with the option to reset their password. However, the link usually still requires the existing password. Otherwise, the user won’t be able to reset their password successfully.

2. Login from an unfamiliar location

When users log in from an unusual location or a place they’ve never been to, such as another country, and attempt to make financial transactions, a step-up authentication is triggered. The user is then required to provide additional credentials to prove their identity.

3. Attempts to make major financial transactions

Due to the rise in the cases of financial breaches, step-up authentication among major financial transactions is critical. This step ensures customer data safety while users navigate your digital platforms.

Standard minimal login credentials are often enough for balance inquiry and check scanning. However, a user attempting to transfer funds from one account to another triggers a step-up authentication that requires additional information to prove their identity.

4. Access to company-altering data

If a company’s operations heavily rely on system codes and configurations, users who want to gain access to make changes can also trigger a step-up authentication measure.

5. Entry to interlinked data systems

An organization using a comprehensive system of interlinked databases can set up step-up authentication when a user attempts entry to more sensitive information linked to the generally available material.

For instance, your system may link a public database of customer names and social media accounts to another database containing customers’ search history, addresses, bank details, and other sensitive information. While these data help brands automate online transactions and target their customers, unauthorized access to them can lead to financial breaches or invasion of privacy.

6. Grants to exclusive content

Some online publications set up step-up authentication using membership and payment prompts for users who want access to their materials. This access often includes full articles, journal copies, or notifications when new materials have become available on their websites.

Where Should I Implement Step-up Authentication?

Data breaches in the U.S. cost businesses on average an estimated $9.44 million, while $4.35 million globally. Therefore, all organizations must employ security measures to reduce the risk of a crippling cyberattack. Step-up authentication is one way to secure your company from data breaches. Here are five processes where you can install this security system.

1. Account access and security

The staple application of security measures must be among all your company’s accounts to serve as your first wall of defense from unauthorized users. High-risk industries, such as finance, health care, e-commerce, and the government, often use account access and security.

In this context, multiple attempts to log in using incorrect credentials or logging in from an unusual location can trigger step-up authentication.

2. Privilege management for high-risk resources

Regulating users’ access to different levels of data and resources is this system’s defining feature. Privilege management refers to the multiple security barriers protecting data of varying sensitivity levels.

Different users accessing various levels of information can trigger step-up authentication. For instance, a nurse can access the hospital’s database containing patients’ names and general descriptions of their medical cases.

However, when nurses request access to a patient’s complete medical profile, you can set up a step-up authentication requiring additional credentials from them. In this case, nurses’ security measures are more heightened than patients accessing their medical history.

On the other hand, step-up authentication can prohibit patients’ access to modify their prescription medicines, but healthcare professionals can do this.

3. Transaction authentication

Transaction authentication entails providing login credentials or information to prove that you are the owner of the account where you intend to make major financial transactions. This procedure is standard among financial institutions.

If you work in a bank, you know that basic user actions, such as balance inquiry and check scanning, require minimal login credentials. However, major financial transactions and processes, such as fund transfers or password resets, must require a step-up authentication to ensure that the user is not a fraud.

4. Exclusive access to commercial content

Online publications, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and academic journals, set up step-up authentication and trigger options to sign up or provide payment details when a user shows interest in reading an entire article, receiving regular updates, or becoming a member. These paid perks avail them of access to the publication’s materials.

5. Granting data viewing versus data editing

Providing users access to view or edit their data is another example of setting up step-up authentication for more fraud-prone data. Users provide minimal login credentials to view their profiles, but this is still at risk of breaches.

If you are working for an ecommerce company, you know that your customers entrusted you with their data to make their checkout process faster and more automated. Thus, you must have your customers’ details at the top of your security priority data list.

Access to edit user data poses more risk. Therefore, this is where you may prompt to require the user to undergo step-up authentication. If a fraudster gains access to change or view a customer’s data, they can steal and sell that information. They may also use the data to make financial breaches or change the delivery address to ship orders made under the customer’s name to a different location.

Customized Security for Your Team and Clients

Companies are aware that they are prone to cybercrimes, so they must do everything to keep an attack at bay. As cybercrime methods become more sophisticated,  companies that do not employ the necessary security measures can risk losing their assets, clients, and credibility.

The good news is building an effective security system doesn’t have to be complex. Step-up authentication will balance security with necessary accessibility, making it an excellent option for your company.

Bring down your cybercrime risks and step up your company’s security measures today with Q5id’s step-up authentication solutions.

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