Digital Certificates vs Password Authentication

Businesses understand the importance of passwords for private data security, but might not realize that using a network with passwords poses many security threats. Every advancement in security technology is followed by more sophisticated hacking techniques. Credentials require password change policies, can be easily decrypted, and are a dying security measure. Digital certificates provide a solution to all these issues.

Certificates Eliminate Password Resets

Credential-based networks put the responsibility of network security on the shoulders of the users, namely through password-change policies that set dates for passwords to expire. For college students, that could be up to seven different devices. These policies can clog up an IT department with support tickets and take time away from value add tasks.

Certificates remove the onus from the end user and streamline the configuration process. Certificates eliminate the necessity of any sort of reset policy. Once a user is equipped with a certificate, they are granted network access until it expires. For example, many universities will distribute 4 year certificates to incoming students because they need network access for the 4 years they attend.

No password change policy → less reconfiguration → less support tickets.

Certificates are Impossible to Crack

certificates credentialsCredentials rely on keywords or phrases created by the end user. Certificates utilize public-private key encryption to encrypt information sent over-the-air and are authenticated with EAP-TLS, the most secure authentication protocol.

A major flaw with credential-based networks can be linked to human behavior. Many people reuse passwords or use weak passwords. A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack could easily infiltrate a credential-based network, steal a password, and then get a bonus to all of the victim’s other accounts that use the same password. MITM attacks are frightening and can lead to the loss of valuable data; certificates can eliminate that risk.

MITM attacks set up a rogue access point that can farm credentials from unwitting users. Certificates are themselves encrypted and can only be decrypted if you have the private key pair, so even if the user accidentally authenticates to a rogue network, the data that is sent is unusable to the attacker.

Certificates Are Cost-Effective

Data breaches are more costly than ever before because most of our information is online today, so your cybersecurity system must be prepared. Any organization maintains large amounts of valuable and sensitive data that must be protected.

Additionally, if your cybersecurity system is inefficient and has a poor user experience, you will see an uptick in support tickets. Every minute your IT department spends on support tickets is time taken away from preparing and updating your security system.

The difficulty and high cost of certificate-based infrastructure may have been valid in the past, but they are misconceptions nowadays. Certificates have become more streamlined and cost effective through automated onboarding software. SecureW2 offers an automated and inexpensive service that allows small-to-medium businesses get the same high-quality network security as the top dogs.

Certificates Allow Efficient Device Onboarding

Certificates outperform passwords in authentication by using server certificate validation. This allows certificates to automatically connect to the correct network, eliminating any concerns about connecting to a rogue access point. The RADIUS server is validated by the device, so there is no issue of authenticating to the wrong server.

Certificates also have the upper-hand by managing access efficiently with identity context, Certlock, and group policies. Identity context means certificates need to be approved or “signed” by the valid Certificate Authority. If it’s not signed by the CA, the certificate will not be authenticated. Certlock locks a signed certificate to a device. Group policies are customizable and can grant specific certificates access to specific web pages, such as pages accessible to university faculty but not to students.

Certificates can authenticate faster than credentials. Though it’s a relatively small difference, it comes in handy for major authentication events. The most notable of these would be the move-in weekend at the start of each school year. If hundreds, or thousands, of authentication requests are rapidly coming in, it can cause a major slowdown in performance.

Certificates Reduce IT Requests

Credential-based networks are an outdated solution to an ever-growing problem. One layer of security is simply not safe enough for modern cyber threats. Two-factor and multi-factor authentication are clear indicators of a dynamic shift. Password change policies are an ineffective solution for a network becoming more obsolete by the day. Problems with credentials can pile onto to the IT department and take time away from more productive tasks.

Certificates offer far more advantages to the IT department and the clients. A certificate-based network can alleviate IT with less unnecessary work, keep a company’s data more secure, and allow an end user to logon to the network easily.

SecureW2 offers a cost-effective certificate-based solution that you can find on our pricing page.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from SecureW2 authored by Samuel Metzler. Read the original post at: https://www.securew2.com/blog/digital-certificates-vs-password-authentication/