Multi-Factor Authentication and Dark Web Scanning to boost IT security during COVID-19 and beyond

Aware that cyber criminals were exploiting the surge in home-working caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Trident stepped up with a remote IT security review for one of its long-standing clients, a leading Brighton estate agent. The result was two additional protective measures – Multi-Factor Authentication and Dark Web Scanning – that proved their worth within weeks.

The estate agency closed their three Brighton branches during the COVID-19 lockdown and had 16 staff working from home using remote access to their network via VPNs and the Microsoft Cloud Productivity Office 365 suite. With these individuals consequently more likely to use their personal devices at work – and in light of the pandemic-triggered spike in cybercrime – Trident recognised the increased threat inherent in staff working from home, and as part of its ongoing development of clients’ IT networks, conducted one of its regular FOC remote working reviews.

Although the client had Trident’s Disaster Recovery and Backup Service and anti-phishing software already in place, the review spotlighted some security vulnerabilities. Staff were still using traditional passwords – easily intercepted by hackers – and there was the heightened risk of any compromised personal and business credentials hitting the Dark Web – the hidden part of the internet invisible to main search engines. While some of these digital communities have legitimate purposes, many trade illegal data to feed criminal activity.

Trident recommended that the client implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to boost security. This process requires two or more authentication steps at login rather than a single – and often lengthy, hard to-remember password – as an additional layer of protection. Even if someone hacks a password, MFA means they are far less likely to access a system without a second or further verification factor present.

Trident deployed MFA within Office 365 across the three branches, instituting 2-step verification – a password and mobile notification requiring a one-time notification message – or a one-time passcode as an alternative option for the latter – for employees when off-site. Trident’s engineers then provided guidelines that walked users through set-up and use of the new system, ensuring minimal inconvenience and expediting user buy-in.

The client also took up Trident’s Dark Web Scanning: a 24/7/365 remote monitoring service of their domain to identify past and present credential breaches across multiple dark web services. The ongoing scans are designed to unearth the business and personal email addresses of key members of the client team, with Trident providing alerts so preventive action can then be taken.

Both measures quickly proved their value in no uncertain times. Two weeks after MFA became operational, the agency’s MD was alerted when someone triggered the second authentication step needed to access their systems. A hacker was at work and would likely have succeeded without MFA.

Trident’s Dark Web Scanning also revealed 21 exposures of employee credentials. Each breach signalled a potential threat that the client would not have otherwise known about, giving them a vital head’s up.

“A hacker attempting to access our systems was absolute proof that we needed MFA, just as Trident had advised. The same goes for Dark Web Scanning – it, too, has been essential in protecting our business, particularly during COVID-19. From highlighting the risks to elevating our IT security, Trident has been indispensable in helping to keep us protected and operating during this unprecedented time.”

Gavin Haines, Trident Senior Business Manager, says:

“We conduct regular IT assessments for our support customers as a matter of course. With this review, I advised the client that if they were going to invest in only one IT setup for the future, it had to be MFA. I applaud them for taking up the  recommendation: at a time when spending was hard to justify, the investment was far-sighted. Any security breach could have crippled the agency at a time when trading and interacting with clients was already very strained.”