The Importance of Identity Verification for Help Desks

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Identity theft cases have nearly tripled over the last decade. That’s why data security has become a top priority for businesses in every industry. 

Increasingly, help desk personnel have found cybercriminals to be impersonating employee end users in the hopes of gaining additional information or network access. Through social engineering, bad actors can collect personal user information and use this data to trick help desk staff into handing over confidential information or sensitive data. 

In today’s information age, just asking for a person’s corporate email address, is not enough. Email addresses, job titles, supervisor names and answers to other common security questions are easily discoverable by cybercriminals on the internet. In addition, while many security threats are launched by external actors, threats can potentially be posed by internal bad actors, as well. That’s why identity verification is an essential tool for IT help desk staff.

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What is User Identity Verification?

When a user contacts an IT help desk (often by phone, email, chat or online form) the first step for help desk personnel is to verify that a user is who they say they are. This process is called identity verification or digital identity verification. Identity verification will assist in preventing identity fraud and will reduce the risk of granting network access to unknown users.  

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Methods of Identity Verification

The better way to verify a user’s identity is to use something that is non-public and difficult to guess. There are several different methods to do this. Here are some possibilities that IT help desks can use to more securely verify the identity of users who are asking for assistance.

Knowledge-Based Authentication

A common way to verify user identity is to ask the user for personal information found in the organization’s database, such as their name, date of birth and/or employee number.

Knowledge-based security questions are also good choices. These should be questions that only the user will know the answer. Examples include asking for their mother’s maiden name, where they attended high school, etc. Be sure to select questions that do not have easily guessable answers.

Also consider placing stickers with equipment ID numbers on all organization-assigned equipment. If a user is calling about a computer problem, this equipment ID number will be easy to find. Be wary if the caller is unable to locate this.

Organizational computing behavior questions are excellent questions to ask, as well. You could ask about their city/state location, when they last logged in, last time they used a printer, etc. Use your organizational data to assist your help desk to authenticate users.

Biometric Analysis

More and more organizations are adopting the use of biometric analysis to verify user identity. This is done through the use of physical characteristics, such as fingerprints or facial recognition. Biometric analysis is a convenient identity verification method and provides enhanced security, as biometric data is difficult to replicate or steal.

Multi-Factor Authentication

This type of authentication typically combines knowledge-based authentication questions along with other digitally based authentication methods. Sending a verification code to a user via email or text is a common way to do this. Other possibilities to choose from include the use of authenticator apps, smartcards, and biometrics. Having multiple layers of security will decrease the likelihood of a unauthorized user entering your network, that’s why multi-factor authentication is increasing in popularity among businesses of all types.

Using Caller ID Spoofing Detection Tools

Confirming a help desk caller’s phone number via caller ID spoofing detection software, will aid in verifying that the caller’s phone number matches the phone number of the user that they say they are. This extra-layer of protection can provide more peace of mind in verifying the identity of the caller.

Self-Serve Password Reset Software

You can reduce the call volume burden on your IT staff by encouraging users to use self-serve password reset software instead of having the reset to be done by your help desk personnel. Self-serve password reset software is a cloud-based software that assists organizations to manage passwords and verify the identity of users. This software can also be configured to automate password rotation schedules and settings based on parameters such as user time zone, rotation frequency and password length.

Benefits of Identity Verification

When your help desk adds identity verification to their toolbox, both the department and your business as a whole will enjoy benefits, such as:

  • Increased Security: Protecting user identity, aids in deterring fraud. While this is especially important in financial, healthcare, and educational industries – every industry needs to be vigilant in ensuring the security of personal employee data.
  • Reduced Risk of Data Breaches: Preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your network is a crucial step in reducing the risk of data breaches. Cybercriminals and other bad actors may be lurking and checking for open doors leading to your network. Identity verification is an excellent tool to deter this.
  • Improved User Experience: Identity verification shows your employees that your organization is taking steps to keep their identities, safe. This builds trust between your employees and help desk. In addition, this trust will provide a solid foundation for future interactions when employees need assistance from the help desk with hardware or software issues.

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    Creating a Forward-Thinking Help Desk Plan

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