Seamless vs. Secure: Striking the Right Balance in Cybersecurity

Striking the right balance in cybersecurity

Balancing security requirements with the need for seamless customer and user experience is an age-old conundrum in cybersecurity – one that’s gotten more difficult to solve in a modern era of multi-factor authentication and multiple cyber threats. The growing list of cyber vulnerabilities requires more layers in security, but customers lose patience and internal users lose productivity when their digital experience is slowed by authentication and access protocols.

The good news is that, with the right security approach and IT partnerships, organizations can master the seamless vs. secure balancing act for an operation that’s both protected and convenient for users.


The simple fact is that there is no single, ideal balance to strike between seamlessness and security; the balance will change depending on the sensitivity of data and systems in question. Some scenarios involving highly protected PII, core operational systems, proprietary information and other “crown jewels" of the organization will require very strong multi-factor authentication MFA every time. Other scenarios involving less-sensitive data may afford a balance that’s more liberal with access.

These variations are why it’s so important to have a holistic approach to mapping the seamless vs. secure continuum. The first step is to conduct a business impact analysis that includes a strong focus on authentication. A fact-finding process geared toward access rights and controls will clarify how these rights and controls relate specifically to the way the business operates, how it makes money and how it stores and interacts with its most sensitive data.

Security teams who grasp the entire scope of data and systems can then uncover vulnerabilities and answer key questions like whether PII on internal servers is inadvertently made accessible by a web portal, or whether mobile device access protocols are too relaxed for certain workflow and data management processes and thereby leaving sensitive data vulnerable to attack. This level of understanding helps teams design the right access controls for the many databases, systems and users that need to work efficiently together in a modern enterprise.


Armed with a clear understanding of current systems and access protocols, security teams can then architect various access rights and controls to suit each situation. The best access protections are based on zero trust security principles and may be facilitated by just-in-time (JIT) access models that limit access to certain systems or time periods on an as-needed basis.

It’s also possible to combine elements of both MFA and single sign on (SSO) convenience in order to provide tailored access across the user journey. Advanced features of this may include software to detect changes in user behavior, and algorithms that request additional credentials based on shifting patterns across user location, role and seniority.

For instance, controls can be adjusted so that a web developer logging into company systems from a laptop in a Starbucks can access the basic content management system (CMS); but they can only access the source code when logging in onsite from a company workstation. Additional business context will help security teams customize access even further.

Running throughout these examples is the caveat that organizations invariably will need help from an experienced MSSP partner to manage all the technical complexity under the hood that makes these outwardly seamless user experiences possible. It’s a worthwhile investment because, with the right approach and partnerships, organizations can modernize access security to the point where the iconic seamless/secure balancing act starts looking a lot less like a tradeoff…and a lot more like a win-win for the organizations.

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