Protecting User Identities: Strengthening Security at the Help Desk

Is Help Desk User Confirmation the Achilles heel of IT security?

Identity Theft is the Achilles Heel of IT security graphic

Help Desk User Proofing, Service Desk User Confirmation, Service Desk User Proofing, User Identity Proofing, User Identity Confirmation - these are the crucial areas that Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) must focus on to safeguard enterprise users' accounts and prevent identity theft within their organizations. In this article, we will explore the risks associated with identity theft through the IT help desk and present a solution that can effectively protect internal processes and services while adding minimal additional costs.

IVM section boxFastPass safeguards your help desk with an intelligent workflow for user verification. You decide the tests and FastPass can be configured individually for your different user groups: FastPass Identity Verification Manager

Implementing secure identity verification at the help desk is a vital step that can significantly enhance security within an organization. Surprisingly, the cost of this implementation is expected to be less than 2-5% of the total investments made in Identity Management projects. Within just 2-4 months, organizations can witness improved security and reduced vulnerability to identity theft.

Identity Management solutions aim to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data and systems. However, our IT systems don't directly recognize people; they only recognize user identities. To bridge the gap between individuals and their identities, we rely on credentials like passwords. While this seems sufficient, a hacker can easily steal the credentials of a legitimate user, exploiting the Identity Management solution and gaining full access as if they were the genuine user. This not only leads to identity theft but also poses a significant data breach risk.

Identity Management solutions aim to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data and systems.

However, our IT systems don't directly recognize people; they only recognize user identities. To bridge the gap between individuals and their identities, we rely on credentials like passwords. While this seems sufficient, a hacker can easily steal the credentials of a legitimate user, exploiting the Identity Management solution and gaining full access as if they were the genuine user. This not only leads to identity theft but also poses a significant data breach risk.

Identity theft through the IT help desk is a critical issue that organizations must address. In fact, high-profile incidents have highlighted the severity of this problem. For instance, a UK teenager successfully carried out a major data breach against CIA and FBI, targeting influential figures and tricking call center staff into revealing passwords. Similarly, Twitter experienced a breach when hackers manipulated call center employees through social engineering techniques. These incidents demonstrate that IT help desks are attractive targets for hackers, and companies across various industries face the burden of dealing with similar incidents.

See also: How to Hack the Service Desk: Reconstruction of a Real Story as Recounted by a Client

To illustrate the vulnerability of help desks to social engineering attacks, let's examine a real-life example. A hacker obtains a manager's name and email from a public forum and easily finds additional information on the company's LinkedIn page. Armed with this information, the hacker contacts the service desk, posing as an employee, and successfully gains trust by providing specific details such as usernames and ticket numbers. The hacker manipulates the service desk agent into revealing more information, ultimately acquiring critical knowledge that can be used for malicious purposes.

social engineering-attack hacker it-support sample conversation 1

social engineering-attack hacker it-support sample conversation 2

Currently, most service desks rely on simple verification tests to authenticate users. However, this approach has several shortcomings. Verification questions can be easily guessed or obtained in advance, and hackers skilled in social engineering can exploit service desk agents to bypass the prescribed verification procedures. Additionally, supporters often have limited experience and face pressure to handle a high volume of calls while providing excellent service. This presents a contradiction between customer service and security requirements.

The fact that 69% of IT departments reported vishing attempts emphasizes the importance of securing help desk operations. It is evident that hackers specifically target the help desk to gain access to vital passwords. Ignoring this reality is not a viable strategy, as it leaves organizations exposed to potential breaches and identity theft incidents.

IT Staff vishing cases increased graphic

To mitigate these risks, envision a scenario where service desks employ intelligent IT workflows that conduct verification tests based on dynamic and contextual data. These tests can adapt to the specific situation and users involved, making it nearly impossible for hackers to manipulate the support staff. By implementing such measures, organizations can effectively thwart hackers' attempts and ensure the security of their systems and data.

FastPass Verification Data Tokens

The FastPass solution offers a secure identity verification service that can be easily integrated into any IT service management (ITSM) tool, whether on-premise or in the cloud. By collecting system data from various sources and leveraging multifactor authentication tokens, such as OKTA, DUO, Microsoft Authenticator, and more, FastPass provides a robust verification process. It integrates seamlessly with popular ITSM platforms like ServiceNow and TOPdesk, supporting password resets across various systems. The flexibility of FastPass allows administrators to configure multiple workflows tailored to different users and situations. Users can also leverage the self-service portal to manage their passwords independently, further reducing the burden on service desk personnel.

FastPass new pricingWhile implementing such solutions requires an investment, the benefits far outweigh the costs. By preventing potential data breaches and identity theft incidents, organizations can avoid the average cost of $9.4M (according to an IBM study) associated with data breaches in the USA. The FastPass implementation can be completed within 2-4 months, and the operational cost is only a small fraction of the overall Identity Management project costs, typically less than $2 per user per year.

As IT professionals, we must acknowledge the potential vulnerabilities in our organizations and take proactive steps to strengthen security.

Relying solely on hope is not a viable strategy. By prioritizing help desk user confirmation, proofing, and identity verification, we can become the defenders of our organizations' security, ensuring the integrity of user identities and protecting sensitive data. Let's embrace the necessary security measures and work together to fortify our organizations against identity theft from the IT help desk.

Finn Jensen

 

Finn Jensen | Founder, FastPasscorp

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