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The future of passwords in the enterprise 

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The future of passwords in the enterprise  1

By Thomas Pedersen, CTO and co-founder of OneLogin

Weak passwords have plagued businesses and security parameters for generations. People tend to set passwords that are easy for them to remember without considering how a weak password will impact the security of their data. This translates to corporate environments where employees tend to use personal passwords, meaning they are inevitably putting their corporate network at risk as it is now far easier for cybercriminals to get hold of an individual’s’ personal information and, in turn, company data.

The reality is most organisations are failing to enforce even the most basic requirements when it comes to passwords, putting their business at significant risk of data breach. In fact, according to OneLogin’s research, only 31% of UK organisations require employees to rotate their passwords monthly and 52% only request password rotation once every three months. Worryingly, 14% of people rotate their passwords on a bi-annual to annual basis.[1]

The good news is that, enterprise identity has two major advantages over consumer identity. The first one is that an enterprise owns and manages all of its employees’ corporate identities, from the moment an employee joins an organisation to the moment they leave. When someone starts a new position, they are assigned an email address and password that ties them to the company they have joined. This is basically an employee corporate ID, providing them access to the relevant parts of the corporate network and applications. The day they leave the organisation, their email account is suspended – so they no longer have the ability to access the corporate network and applications.

The second advantage that enterprise identities have over consumer identities is that the enterprise space has identity standards that allow a large ecosystem of players to seamlessly collaborate, such as Security Assertion Mark-up Language (SAML). This standard is supported by thousands of enterprise applications and eliminates the need for user passwords. For example, once an organisation enables SAML for a cloud application like Salesforce, its users can no longer sign in with a password. When an employee tries to sign into his organisation’s Salesforce account, Salesforce will instead redirect the user to that organisation’s identity provider, which will then authenticate the user and then sign the user into Salesforce using the SAML protocol. This will therefore create a safer and seamless environment for employees, without the worry of replacing and reusing passwords, employees and enterprises can have trust in the SAML procedure to authenticate their employees effectively.

Without getting too technical, SAML eliminates passwords by replacing all the users’ passwords with a digital certificate, which has been issued by the organisation’s identity provider. When a user is signed into e.g. Salesforce by the identity provider, it generates a so-called SAML assertion, which is a digitally signed XML document that contains the user’s identity among other things. Salesforce can then use the digital certificate to verify that the signature is valid and extract information about the user’s identity. To use ourselves as an example, all important cloud apps we use at OneLogin support SAML; both on web and mobile, which means that employees don’t have to remember any app-specific passwords. All they have to remember is their OneLogin password, which is protected by multi-factor authentication.

It is no secret that everyone hates passwords. Stories around password hacking always grab the news headlines since they are crucial in the safety and development of internet security. In-fact, it was revealed in the media that Facebook has stored millions of passwords that are not protected by any encryption[2]. The harsh reality is that many organisations are failing to adhere to continuous security changes – putting their customers’ data and privacy at risk every-time they allow security to fall through the cracks. Essentially, if a customer uses a weak password on a corporate network, they are not just putting themselves at risk, they are jeopardising the whole corporate network.

Of course, it is fair to say that we still have a long while to go until passwords are completely gone forever, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Passwords are crucial to the safety of the evolving technology industry, they are secure and reliable with new technology processes.

In summary, the harsh truth is that consumers are going to have to deal with passwords for a long time. However, thanks to the ‘SAML’ standard and easy-to-deploy Identity-as-a-Service solutions like OneLogin, enterprises do have the option to eliminate the need for most of their employee passwords.

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Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services

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Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services 2

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Economic activity in the euro zone shrank markedly in January as lockdown restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic hit the bloc’s dominant service industry hard, a survey showed.

With hospitality and entertainment venues forced to remain closed across much of the continent the survey highlighted a sharp contraction in the services industry but also showed manufacturing remained strong as factories largely remained open.

IHS Markit’s flash composite PMI, seen as a good guide to economic health, fell further below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction to 47.5 in January from December’s 49.1. A Reuters poll had predicted a fall to 47.6.

“A double-dip recession for the euro zone economy is looking increasingly inevitable as tighter COVID-19 restrictions took a further toll on businesses in January,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

“Some encouragement comes from the downturn being less severe than in the spring of last year, reflecting the ongoing relative resilience of manufacturing, rising demand for exported goods and the lockdown measures having been less stringent on average than last year.”

The bloc’s economy was expected to grow 0.6% this quarter, a Reuters poll showed earlier this week, and will return to its pre-COVID-19 level within two years on hopes the rollout of vaccines will allow a return to some form of normality. [ECILT/EU]

A PMI covering the bloc’s dominant service industry dropped to 45.0 from 46.4, exceeding expectations in a Reuters poll that had predicted a steeper fall to 44.5 and still a long way from historic lows at the start of the pandemic.

With activity still in decline and restrictions likely to be in place for some time yet, services firms were forced to chop their charges. The output price index fell to 46.9 from 48.4, its lowest reading since June.

That will be disappointing for policymakers at the European Central Bank – who on Thursday left policy unchanged – as uncomfortably low inflation has been a thorn in the ECB’s side for years.

Factory activity remained strong and the manufacturing PMI held well above breakeven at 54.7, albeit weaker than December’s 55.2. The Reuters poll had predicted a drop to 54.5.

An index measuring output which feeds into the composite PMI fell to 54.5 from 56.3.

But despite strong demand factories again cut headcount, as they have every month since May 2019. The employment index fell to 48.9 from 49.2.

As immunisation programmes are being ramped up after a slow start in Europe optimism about the coming year remained strong. The composite future output index dipped to 63.6 from December’s near three-year high of 64.5.

“The roll out of vaccines has meanwhile helped sustain a strong degree of confidence about prospects for the year ahead, though the recent rise in virus case numbers has caused some pull-back in optimism,” Williamson said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Cable; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Volkswagen’s profit halves, but deliveries recovering

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Volkswagen's profit halves, but deliveries recovering 3

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen reported a nearly 50% drop in its 2020 adjusted operating profit on Friday but said car deliveries had recovered strongly in the fourth quarter, lifting its shares.

The world’s largest carmaker said full-year operating profit, excluding costs related to its diesel emissions scandal, came in at 10 billion euros ($12.2 billion), compared with 19.3 billion in 2019.

Net cash flow at its automotive division was around 6 billion euros and car deliveries picked up towards the end of the year, the German group said in a statement.

“The deliveries to customers of the Volkswagen Group continued to recover strongly in the fourth quarter and even exceeded the deliveries of the third quarter 2020,” it said.

Volkswagen’s shares, which had been down as much as 2%, turned positive and were up 1.5% at 164.32 euros by 1158 GMT.

Sales at the automaker rose 1.7% in December, at a time when new car registrations in Europe dropped nearly 4%, data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association showed.

Like its rivals, Volkswagen is facing several challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as a global shortage of chips needed for production.

It also sees tough competition in developing electrified and self-driving cars. The merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot-owner PSA to create the world’s fourth-biggest automaker Stellantis adds to the pressure.

Volkswagen said on Thursday it missed EU targets on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its passenger car fleet last year and faces a fine of more than 100 million euros.

The group is expected to release detailed 2020 figures on March 16.

($1 = 0.8215 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter)

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Muted recovery for UK retailers in December ends worst year on record

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Muted recovery for UK retailers in December ends worst year on record 4

By David Milliken and Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) – British retailers struggled to recover in December from a partial coronavirus lockdown the previous month, marking a weak end to their worst year on record, while public debt has climbed to its highest since 1962, official data showed on Friday.

The figures suggest Britain’s economy had little momentum going into 2021. The government tightened COVID-19 lockdown rules on Jan. 5 to tackle a surge in cases that has kept Britain’s death toll the highest in Europe.

A closely watched business survey released on Monday showed the measures contributed to the sharpest fall in economic activity since May, in addition to headwinds from new paperwork for exports to the European Union.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak faces pressure from some in his Conservative Party to show spending is under control when he presents a new budget on March 3, after what is on track to be the heaviest annual borrowing since World War Two.

Sunak has again promised to put the public finances on “a more sustainable footing” once the economy begins to recover, after Friday’s data showed public borrowing since the start of the financial year in April reached a record 271 billion pounds ($370 billion).

Britain’s Office for National Statistics said retail sales volumes rose 0.3% in December, far less than economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll for a 1.2% increase, leaving them just 2.9% higher than a year earlier.

For 2020 as a whole, retail sales were down 1.9%, the biggest calendar-year fall since these records began in 1996. Clothing sales slumped by more than a quarter and spending on fuel dropped by more than a fifth.

Sterling fell slightly against the dollar and the euro following the weaker-than-expected retail numbers.

“With no end in sight for retailers closed in lockdown, many will struggle to survive,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium trade body, calling for more government help for the sector.

Department store Debenhams is among well known names to have collapsed. Administrators said last week its flagship Oxford Street store in central London would close permanently due to the latest COVID restrictions.

RECORD BORROWING

Public sector borrowing for the month of December came in at 34.1 billion pounds, just above Reuters poll forecasts. Total public sector debt had reached 2.132 trillion pounds, equivalent to 99.4% of GDP, the most since 1962.

Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane said on Tuesday government borrowing on this scale was essential to stabilise the economy. He said he did not see a looming debt crisis, predicting interest rates would remain very low for a long time.

“This level of spending may be eye-wateringly large, but it is absolutely necessary,” said Charlie McCurdy, a researcher at the Resolution Foundation think tank.

December offered a partial respite for Britain’s economy, which has seen sharper falls in its official measure of output than any other advanced country, as well as Europe’s highest official death toll from COVID-19.

In November, the economy shrank 2.6%, due to a four-week lockdown in England and similar measures in other parts of Britain, although some restrictions had remained in place for retailers in December.

This month the government went further and shut schools as well as all non-essential retailers, which most economists think will lead to the economy contracting in the first quarter.

Flash purchasing managers index (PMI) data on Monday showed manufacturing growth slowed in early January, and services firms suffered a sharp fall in activity and reduced their workforce.

“The steepest loss of jobs was recorded in the hotels, restaurants, travel and leisure sectors, reflecting the new lockdown measures,” survey publishers IHS Markit said.

Experimental data from the ONS on Thursday showed consumer spending in early January was 35% lower than before the pandemic began in February, although the figures were not seasonally adjusted to reflect the typical post-Christmas lull.

Retail sales have performed better than other areas of consumer spending, with shoppers switching to online stores, where spending surged by 46.1% in 2020.

Excluding the slump in fuel sales, retail sales grew in 2020, albeit by the lowest level since 2011, reflecting extra spending on groceries and household goods by people stuck at home.

($1 = 0.7310 pounds)

(Reporting by David Milliken and Andy Bruce, Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Edmund Blair and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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