March 30, 2024

Anonybit Team

13 Common Authentication Vulnerabilities You Must Know About

Blog employee showing businesswoman Common Authentication Vulnerabilities

Authentication is an essential component of cybersecurity that verifies users’ identities and secures sensitive data and resources. Hackers exploit vulnerabilities in the authentication process to gain unauthorized access to systems. Over time, these vulnerabilities evolve, so staying up-to-date with the latest vulnerabilities and best practices for combating them is essential. This blog post will dive into common authentication vulnerabilities and how to protect your systems with Passwordless Security

What Are Authentication Vulnerabilities?

man showing Common Authentication Vulnerabilities

Authentication vulnerabilities refer to weaknesses in verifying the identity of a user, device, or system that can be exploited to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information and systems. Many authentication methods, types, and techniques range from passwords and two-factor authentication to biometrics, Single Sign-Ons (SSO), and authentication protocols like SSL or Kerberos.

Authentication Vulnerabilities and Data Breaches

Despite multiple authentication methods, attackers bypass security measures and gain unauthorized access to systems and information. In 2020, more than 1,000 data breaches exposed over 155 million records, costing an average $3.86 million.

Over 82% of breaches were shockingly caused by authentication vulnerabilities, such as stolen or weak credentials.

Authentication vulnerabilities pose a significant risk to organizations. Attackers can exploit weaknesses in authentication mechanisms to gain unauthorized access to systems, networks, and sensitive information. Organizations can protect their assets and data from unauthorized access and misuse by understanding common authentication vulnerabilities and implementing robust security measures.

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How Do Authentication Vulnerabilities Emerge?

man showing problems and Common Authentication Vulnerabilities

One primary factor contributing to authentication vulnerabilities is the rapid advancement of technology. As new software, protocols, and authentication methods are developed, cybercriminals continually seek to exploit potential loopholes in these systems.

Outdated or improperly configured authentication protocols become easy targets, allowing attackers to gain unauthorized access.

​Human Factors: The Weak Link in Authentication

Human behavior also plays a significant role in the emergence of authentication vulnerabilities. Users often choose convenience over security, opting for weak passwords or reusing them across multiple platforms.

Phishing attacks, where unsuspecting individuals are tricked into revealing their credentials, exploit human trust and naivety.  A lack of awareness about secure authentication practices can lead to poor choices, making it easier for hackers to compromise accounts.

The Domino Effect: How Breaches Spread Across Systems

The interconnected nature of digital platforms and services amplifies the impact of authentication vulnerabilities. A breach in one system can have a domino effect, compromising multiple accounts and sensitive data. Cybercriminals exploit these interconnections to launch attacks such as credential stuffing, where stolen credentials from one service are used to infiltrate other accounts, taking advantage of the commonality in user behavior.

Prevent Data Breaches with Anonybit’s Integrated Identity Management Platform

At Anonybit, our decentralized biometrics system design helps companies prevent data breaches and account takeover fraud. With a decentralized biometrics solution, companies can enable passwordless login, wire verification, step-up authentication, and help desk authentication. We are on a mission to protect companies from data breaches, account takeovers, and synthetic identity fraud.

To achieve this goal, we offer security solutions such as:

  • Secure storage of biometrics and PII data
  • Support for the entire user lifecycle
  • 1:1 biometric authentication and 1:N biometric matching to prevent duplicates, synthetics, and blocklisted identities 

Anonybit eliminates the tradeoffs between privacy and security. Prevent data breaches, enable strong authentication to eliminate account takeovers, and enhance the user experience across the enterprise using Anonybit.

Book a free demo today to learn more about our integrated identity management platform.

What Threats Do Authentication Vulnerabilities Pose?

The impact of authentication vulnerabilities can be severe. If an attacker bypasses authentication or brute-forces their way into another user’s account, they have access to all the data and functionality the compromised account has. If they can compromise a high-privileged account, such as a system administrator, they could take full control over the entire application and potentially gain access to internal infrastructure.

Even compromising a low-privileged account might still grant attackers access to data they otherwise shouldn’t have, such as commercially sensitive business information. Even if the account cannot access sensitive data, it might still allow the attacker to access additional pages, which provides a further attack surface. Often, high-severity attacks are not possible from publicly accessible pages but may be possible from an internal page.

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13 Common Authentication Vulnerabilities You Must Protect Against

person trying to figure out Common Authentication Vulnerabilities

1. Weak Passwords

One of the most common authentication vulnerabilities is weak passwords. Many users still opt for easily guessable passwords like “123456” or “Qwerty123.” Creating strong, unique passwords for each account is essential to mitigate this risk. Hence, businesses must encourage their customers to use strong passwords. Also, companies should consider relying on secure password storage mechanisms to ensure the highest level of security.

2. Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks involve tricking users into divulging their sensitive information by posing as a trustworthy entity. Be cautious of unsolicited emails or messages requesting your login credentials. Always verify the sender’s authenticity before clicking links or providing personal information.

3. Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing occurs when cybercriminals use stolen usernames and passwords from one platform to access multiple accounts on various websites. To avoid falling victim to this vulnerability, refrain from using the same login credentials across different platforms. Consider using a password manager to generate and store unique passwords for each account.

4. Flawed Brute-Force Protection

A brute-force attack, such as a dictionary attack, attempts to gain illegal access to a system or user’s account by entering large numbers of randomly generated or pre-generated combinations of usernames and passwords until they find one that works.

Suppose a brute-force protection system is flawed, such as a flaw in the authentication logic, firewall, or secure shell (SSH) protocol. In that case, attackers can hijack login credentials and processes, compromising the security of user credentials.

5. Session Hijacking

Session hijacking, or session stealing, occurs when an attacker intercepts and steals a user’s session identifier. To prevent this, websites should implement secure communication channels, such as HTTPS, and use safe, randomly generated session tokens that are not easily predictable.

6. Lack of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

The lack of MFA is a significant vulnerability that many users overlook. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple verification forms before gaining access to their accounts. By enabling MFA, you can enhance your account’s protection against unauthorized access, but vulnerabilities remain.

7. Username Enumeration

Username enumeration is not precisely an authentication vulnerability. But, it can make an attacker’s life easier by lowering the cost for other attacks, such as brute-force attacks or weak credential checks. This process of username enumeration confirms whether or not a username is valid. The problem with username enumeration is that attackers can tell what usernames are valid. Then, they can try to hack valid user accounts using brute-force techniques without wasting their time and money testing many invalid account names.

8. Insecure session handling

Authentication should be a continuous process. However, asking users to prove credentials at each step is impracticable. That’s why authentication states are kept in a stateful session. A vulnerability in session management allows a malicious user to ride on a valid authenticated session without needing authentication. Improper user logout functionality, lack of session timeouts, and insecure practices of storing session data in non-HTTP-only cookies, web pages, or browser storage are common vulnerabilities related to session handling.

9. Missing rate limiters and lockout process

Rate limiters and lockout processes prevent brute-force attacks. The lack of this functionality opens many other ways to exploit authentication processes such as password cracking, user enumeration, and denial of service.

10. SQL Injection

This vulnerability allows an attacker to interfere with queries that an application makes to its database by inputting SQL statements in the input fields of the application. An attacker exploits vulnerabilities in the application’s input validation mechanisms in a typical SQL injection attack. The attacker can trick the application into executing unintended database commands by inputting carefully crafted SQL statements.

As a result, they can steal poorly protected password hashes and bypass authentication mechanisms. Some effective ways to mitigate the risk of SQL injection include input validation, implementing the least privilege principle, and proper error handling.

11. Staying Logged In

A ” me ” or “Keep me logged in” checkbox beneath a login form makes it super easy to stay logged in after closing a session. It generates a cookie that lets you skip the process of logging in. If an attacker can predict a cookie or deduce its generation pattern, this can lead to a cookie-based authentication vulnerability. They can use malicious techniques like brute-force attacks to predict cookies and cross-site scripting (XSS) to hack user accounts by allowing a malicious server to use a legitimate cookie.

Suppose a cookie is poorly designed or protected. In that case, attackers may be able to obtain passwords or other sensitive (and legally protected) data such as user addresses or account information from a stored cookie.

12. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

In a CSRF—also referred to as a confused deputy attack—a malicious third party fools the browser into misusing its authority to do something for the attacker.

In the case of CSRF, a third-party site uses your browser, cookies, and session to issue a request to a target site (e.g., your bank). If you are logged in to your bank on one browser tab, and if your bank is vulnerable to this type of attack, another tab can be controlled to make your browser misuse its credentials on the attacker’s behalf, resulting in the confused deputy problem. The deputy is the browser that misuses its authority (session cookies) to perform the attacker’s instructions.

13. Employee Negligence

According to a Shred-it 2020 report, up to 31% of C-suite executives reported employee negligence as the second major cause of their data breaches. Human error can result in serious authentication vulnerabilities that are far easier to exploit than brute-force attacks, SQL injections, and authentication bypasses.

This negligence includes actions such as:

  • Leaving a computer on and unlocked in a public place
  • Losing devices to theft
  • Leaking sensitive information to strangers
  • Writing bad code 

Measures To Prevent Authentication Vulnerabilities

woman trying to figure out Common Authentication Vulnerabilities

Passwordless authentication is a secure and convenient alternative to traditional password-based authentication methods. It eliminates the need for passwords, often weak, easily stolen, and prone to various vulnerabilities like password spraying, password reuse, credential stuffing, and brute force attacks.

By leveraging more secure authentication methods, such as biometric factors, passwordless authentication boosts security, reduces the risk of password-related breaches, and mitigates potential threats like phishing and social engineering. Deploying passwordless authentication has many advantages, such as streamlining the login process, accelerating authentication, enhancing user experience, reducing support costs, and improving scalability. Passwordless authentication offers a robust solution for minimizing authentication vulnerabilities and strengthening security.

Preventing Authentication Vulnerabilities through Additional Measures

While passwordless authentication is a potent tool for reducing authentication vulnerabilities, other security measures can further enhance protection.

1. Implement reliable brute-force protection

  • Enforce account lockouts after a set number of failed attempts
  • Implement rate limiting to restrict the number of login attempts from a single IP address
  • Use CAPTCHAs or other challenges to verify the user is human

2. Enforce a secure password policy

  • Require solid and complex passwords with a minimum length and combination of characters, numbers, and symbols
  • Implement password expiration policies to force regular password changes
  • Consider passwordless authentication methods like biometrics or hardware security keys to eliminate password-related vulnerabilities

3. Apply HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS)

Force web sessions to use HTTPS encryption to prevent sensitive data from being accessed in transit

4. Disable username enumeration

Generate the same error message for failed logins whether the username is valid. This forces attackers to brute-force the username and password, rather than just the password.

5. Implement proper session handling

  • Use HttpOnly and SameSite flags when setting cookies to prevent XSS and CSRF attacks
  • Enforce session timeouts and provide a secure logout functionality

6. Scrutinize code for vulnerabilities

  • Regularly audit code to detect logic flaws and authentication bypass vulnerabilities
  • Use parameterized queries and input validation to prevent SQL injection

7. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA)

8. Monitor and log authentication activity

  • Continuously monitor for suspicious login attempts and other anomalous behavior
  • Maintain detailed logs of all authentication events for forensic purposes

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Book A Free Demo To Learn More About Our Integrated Identity Management Platform

Anonybit is a pioneering security solution that has revolutionized how companies approach cybersecurity. It brings a unique, decentralized biometric feature, helping companies prevent data breaches and account takeover fraud. With our passwordless authentication and decentralized biometrics, companies can enjoy a suite of features that enhance security and improve the user experience. Anonybit offers solutions like secure storage of biometrics and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data, support for the entire user lifecycle, and advanced matching capabilities for lookups and deduplication.

Our mission is to protect companies from the growing threats in the digital landscape, such as data breaches, account takeovers, synthetic identities, privacy regulations, and digital transformation. By eliminating the tradeoffs between privacy and security, Anonybit allows companies to prevent data breaches effectively, enable strong authentication to eliminate account takeovers and enhance overall security posture across the enterprise.

Book a free demo today to discover the transformative power of Anonybit’s integrated identity management platform.

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