Use Two-Factor Authentication for cloud applications or risk fines and data breaches

If you’re not using two-factor authentication for cloud applications in your organization in the UK, you may be risking a fine.

See my 'No two-factor authentication is like asking to be hacked?' post for further insights on securing cloud apps, especially using Multi-factor authentication (MFA).

ICO - A Practical Guide to IT Security

​The ICO revised their ‘A Practical Guide to IT Security' document while aimed at small businesses the advice is really universal.

The ICO have provided this guidance with “10 practical ways to keep your IT systems safe and secure”.

ICO A practical guide to IT Security

​A reminder of the ICO’s authority and reach with these matters:

Breaches of data protection legislation could lead to your business incurring a fine – up to £500,000 in serious cases. The reputation of your business could also be damaged if inadequate security contributes to high profile incidents of data loss or theft.

The case for two-factor authentication for cloud applications

Most businesses are using cloud applications in some capacity or are considering doing so with services like Microsoft Office 365 or Salesforce being very popular. The ICO have a section on “Secure your data in the cloud” with guidance on how to protect these systems.

There are a wide range of online services, many incorporated within today’s smartphones and tablets that require users to transfer data to remote computing facilities – commonly known as the cloud.

Processing data in the cloud represents a risk because the personal data for which you are responsible will leave your network and be processed in those systems managed by your cloud provider. You therefore need to assess the security measures that the cloud provider has in place to ensure that they are appropriate.

While I think however simplified, most of us would agree with this assertion as well as what the ICO suggest businesses can do about this:

Make sure you know what data is being stored in the cloud as modern computing devices, especially those targeted at consumers, can have cloud backup or sync services switched on by default. Consider the use of two-factor authentication especially for remote access to your data in the cloud.

​The last sentence is what sparked my interest, bear in mind this is advice for small businesses, which typically comprise of 50 staff or less.

The ICO are effectively recommending two-factor authentication even for these small entities. That being the case, surely bigger enterprises must seriously consider two-factor authentication for cloud applications as well.

Personal information must be secure

Without getting into the finer points of the Data Protection Act organizations have to have an appropriate level of security for the type of personal information they hold.  Principle 7 is all about security. 

​Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.

Two-factor authentication is an entirely proportionate security measure, that is well placed to protect access to cloud-based applications.

8 data protection principles

The ICO will rarely dictate all the security measures you have to have in place, that's your job!  You as an organization and a data controller must put in the right measures to mitigate potential data breaches. 

With daily news of fresh data beaches, isn't it time you secure your cloud applications and enable your staff the ability to truly work from anywhere securely? ​

See the ​ICO - A Practical Guide to IT Security document for more top tips on security.

Image credits:  ICO ‘A Practical Guide to IT Security’ cover & '8 data protection principles' postcard