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Ed Sector Has Seen Greatest Increase in Remote Access

It's no surprise that remote access boomed in spring 2020, when as many people as possible were told to do their work from home. A recent analysis by Duo Security, a Cisco division that produces multi-factor authentication technology, has found that education saw the largest increase in average daily authentications from remote technology, up 78 percent over the period between March 2020 and June 2020 compared to the period between June 2019 and February 2020. The primary method of authentication in ed was two-factor authentication (48 percent), followed by reliance on "remembered device" functionality (34 percent), in which a specific device is deemed trustworthy after the first authentication.

For the study, the Duo data science team looked at data across its customer base in multiple countries, covering 26 million devices, 500,000 different applications and about 700 million monthly authentications. The results were shared in Duo's "Trusted Access Report."

According to the analysis, the two-factor authentication used in ed requires a user to log in with a username and password and then tap "approve" when a push notification arrives on their phones immediately afterwards to securely access their applications.

The same study found that different industries relied on different device-based policies to determine whether or not to block authentications. In education, the share of blocks imposed each month based on invalid devices was higher than any other industry. Other reasons for blocking devices from network access included attempted access in a restricted location or out-of-date security profiles (found most often in the technology segment); lack of a screen lock (found in financial services); anonymous IP address; lack of disk encryption; denied network; or version, platform or software restrictions.

In the education sector, 47 percent of K-12 users and 44.5 percent of higher education users were working on devices that were out-of-date, meaning they haven't uploaded the latest version of the operating system. Overall, across all industries, including education, Apple iOS devices were 3.5 times more likely than Google Android devices to be updated with the latest patch or OS.

Among the results across all industries, the analysis found that biometrics usage — Apple Touch ID or Face ID and Android fingerprint scanning — is "booming." In the United States more than four in five users have biometrics enabled and the sheer number of devices that accommodates biometrics has grown by 64 percent.

Windows 7 is still out there, though it has dropped to its lowest level of usage yet, according to the report. A tenth of Windows devices still run the outdated OS, which Microsoft stopped supporting at the beginning of 2020. Healthcare seems to be the most receptive to Windows 7 usage; 30 percent of Windows devices in that sector are running the unsupported OS. The reason? Possibly, it's tied to staying in compliance "with software terms and conditions of some third-party software companies, the rationale being that these software companies have not updated their code for a mission critical application," the report said.

The use of SMS for identity confirmation is quickly going by the wayside. In 2016, the National Institute of Standards and Technology updated its guidelines, stating that SMS-based authentication methods were no longer secure, since the phone may not be in possession of the phone number and SMS messages can be intercepted before they're delivered to the intended phone.

Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan are the countries most likely to be included in a list of "restricted locations," preventing users from gaining access. As the report explained, "Those restricted locations are seen as hotbeds for insecure activity or areas from where cyberattacks most often originate."

The "Trusted Access Report" is available with registration on the Cisco Duo website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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