Password management best practices every SMB must follow

Hacks and data breaches cost the global economy dearly in 2018. The losses are estimated to reach a staggering $6 trillion by 2021 if the hacking trends continue. While it is difficult for most to even imagine such a big number, losses in the millions can be fatal for most SMBs in the U.S. and around the rest of the world. Using password management best practices won't guarantee you won't become a cyberattack victim, but it will definitely make it harder for the bad guys to get in.

Why robust password protection management can save you

Most recent research on data breaches has revealed that the small and medium businesses are taking massive hits due to something entirely manageable — passwords. Passwords have been around since the genesis of PCs, yet we struggle to keep them safe and secure. A whopping 81 percent of the data breaches from SMBs were made possible by weak passwords and inadequate storage of passwords by the users.

Office workers still use “123456” as their password for shared work profiles, cloud accounts, and emails. “Password” is the second most popular password among adults in 2019. When using strong passwords that are combinations of alpha-numeric characters and special symbols, people tend to write these codes down on sticky notes and stick them above their workstation, on their monitors or speakers, under the keyboards, and on their desk. That does little to protect their privacy. It is gross neglect of the password best practices that are absolutely necessary to preserve data privacy and protect corporate accounts from third-party breaches.

New trends in password management

Today, if you are the part of an SMB, you may have already noticed the password management practices evolving. In the face of the strengthening data breaches, system admins, data scientists, and entrepreneurs are trying to impose good password management practices in 2019. People have come a long way from storing passwords in a password-protected Excel sheet. What can you do? Here are a few password management trends that are becoming steadily popular today

1. The use of a digital password manager

Most people have to deal with numerous logins per day. Their activities span Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, work accounts, and cloud accounts. Apart from creating a unique and strong password for each account, users have to remember each one for instant access. The easiest way of achieving that is by opting for digital password management. Many have adopted two-step authentication as a part of enhanced security. Additionally, the tech-savvy population swears by the benefits of VPNs for protecting their critical information.

2. Utilization of privileged access management

Companies concerned about data privacy and protection have begun investing in privileged access management (PAM) software. It is an excellent way of managing employee and admin passwords for the company network and cloud. Apart from the daily authentication, the PAM is capable of automating password management.

Automation of the password management system allows companies to change passwords or set expiry dates to the current one. Furthermore, upon the termination or resignation of an employee, the admin can use PAM to terminate the employee account or change the password instantly. Same is true for any other high-risk incident within the company.

3. The extension of PAM to the cloud

On-premises solutions for password management is excellent and all, but today, anything that cannot be adapted to the cloud is not good enough. It is no longer enough to work with scaled-down versions of on-site PAMs that are somewhat suited for cloud environments. Modern SMBs require more than the typical password manager for the cloud. Employees and admins demand a PAM that can manage passwords, protect accounts, and provide a high-end security solution for each employee account and database access points in the cloud environment.

4. Adoption of enterprise-level account security

Password protection is becoming more critical by the day not only for every large corporation but for all small and medium-sized businesses. Since SMBs suffer higher consequences from the loss of data compared to larger corporations, it is wise for SMBs to adopt enterprise-level account and password protection practices. Enterprise-level password managers should become more prevalent in 2019 than they were among the SMBs. Last year, over 86 percent of SMBs reported data hack attempts and breaches. And no wonder: small and medium-sized businesses have become the primary targets of data hackers due to weak password and cloud protection.

5. Multiple account authentication will become popular

Logging into accounts via one-step password verification is set to become a relic. It is neither a secure nor a reliable method for SMBs to protect their data that lies in their employee accounts. Several authenticator applications for desktops and mobile phones are already on their way to perfection. Most common among them are the two-step, OTP (one-time password) verification systems that send a string of numbers to the user’s mobile phone upon their first login attempt to a registered account. It requires a mobile phone in the user’s possession and eliminates the possibility of a third-party intervening in the account access. Don’t think this easy step is beneficial? Google says it could stop 99 percent of bulk phishing attacks.

Why cybersecurity experts are worried about the fate of SMBs

This year might be a better year for password protection and data privacy, but we are sure that a handful few businesses will stick to their old methods since they believe that hackers are only after the larger companies. It is difficult for certain new companies to allocate budget for password protection and management systems. If that is the case for your enterprise as well, you need to remember to use a different password for each account. Most importantly, change the password for each account every month. That will prevent hackers from getting enough time to carry on brute force attacks.

What budget-friendly steps can SMBs take for password management?

A 2017 survey shows that cyberattacks on SMBs can lead to the damage of IT property worth $1.027 million and cost them over $1.2 million in terms of disrupted normal operations. These numbers are significantly larger than the cost of implementing a reliable and robust enterprise-level password management system! Apart from investing in cloud and on-premises password management software, an SMB should focus on bespoke antivirus systems, firewalls for their databases, and a reliable VPN service to encrypt their messages. A few simple steps can help you protect your precious data and company reputation, without emptying your financial resources.

Images: Pixabay

Rahul Sharma

Rahul Sharma is an accomplished copywriter/blogger who likes to create content that compel people to comment, share, and discuss. He has written content for blogs, websites, forums and magazines. His work is published on some popular websites like Android Authority, Tweakyourbiz and Tech.co. etc. You can contact follow him on Twitter @Im_RahulSharma.

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