With the turn of the 20th century and the rise of the internet, transactions and services became increasingly digital – and so did our identities. Unlike physical identities where a person is in complete control of their identification documents and knows when these documents are missing or stolen, digital identities are stored on servers and databases owned by third-party vendors that offer their services in a digital format. So, it’s highly unlikely a person would know when their digital identity is stolen or compromised. In effect, a cybercriminal could pose as a legitimate user and inflict financial and reputational damage over a long period of time before the breach is detected.

As cloud adoption and digital transformation has accelerated over the last few years, so has application sprawl, with the average company having over 254 SaaS apps, and less than half of those being used on a regular basis, according to a Productiv study. And an average mobile phone user has 80 apps installed, with 62% of those apps not used on a regular basis, according to a DataProt study. This SaaS sprawl has led to password fatigue and reuse as well as dormant accounts, increasing the attack surface for cybercriminals to launch successful identity-based attacks. It’s no wonder that phishing and credential compromise are the two most common initial attack vectors.

Taking a layered approach to identity-first security

With the advent of generative AI technologies and criminal SaaS offerings such as phishing as a service that enable cybercriminals to launch effective and targeted phishing campaigns, identity has quickly become the perimeter that organizations need to secure against cyberattacks.

In order to build an effective identity-first security strategy, organizations need to take a layered approach to a proactive defense – starting with an effective AI-based biometric solution to verify identities accurately while detecting fake IDs and deepfakes.

Then, enabling high assurance phishing-resistant passwordless authentication (e.g., certificate-based authentication with passkeys) can help authenticate seamlessly while protecting against phishing and MFA-bypass attacks.

You can further eliminate the dangers that come with SaaS application sprawl and password fatigue by implementing a true passwordless experience with single sign-on (SSO) and just-in-time user provisioning capabilities. This can streamline the authentication process and help eliminate dormant accounts, reducing license costs associated with granting user licenses for applications that users never log in to.

Finally, tying in a robust adaptive risk engine that can evaluate the risk score of a user based on contextual information (IP address, geolocation, travel velocity, behavioral biometrics, etc.) introduces friction in the process by requiring a second MFA or blocking access when risk levels are higher than a set threshold.

As we’ve seen in some recent breaches, bringing in an identity verification step with physical credentials and liveness detection during MFA/password resets – to secure a high-value transaction or out-of-compliance user – can build a robust, proactive identity-first security strategy.

Learn more about our Identity as a Service platform that can get you started on your identity-first security strategy.