How security leaders manage access and authentication to their systems is critical to an organization's security posture. All too often, though, these protocols are either written in-house with little thought to security, or they're left to default settings that may not be secure.

Here are six ways that cybersecurity leaders can ensure secure access and authentication methods in their organizations.

1. Use two-factor authentication

One of the most important things security leaders can do to improve access and authentication protocols is to use two-factor authentication (2FA). This means that in addition to a password, users will also need a second factor, such as a code from a security token, to log in. This provides an extra layer of security and makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to the organizational network.

2FA has already begun to see wide adoption across global enterprises, with cybersecurity leaders requiring the process for access to their networks.

2. Require regular password changes

Another way to improve access and authentication protocols is to require regular password changes. This means that users must change their passwords on a regular basis, such as every 30, 60 or 90 days.

3. Implement account lockout policies

In addition to limiting login attempts, security leaders can implement account lockout policies. After a certain number of failed login attempts, the account will be locked for a period of time. The user will need to contact customer support to regain access. This helps to prevent brute force attacks, where hackers try to guess passwords repeatedly in order to gain access to an account.

4. Ban public network access

Public network access is a security risk that allows anyone to connect to your network. This can be a hacker who is trying to gain access to a system or an employee who is using an unsecured public WiFi connection.

5. Focus on employee education

One of the best ways to improve organizational access and authentication protocols is to focus on employee education. Security leaders should provide training on cybersecurity best practices and make sure that employees are aware of the importance of keeping their passwords safe. Employee education is an important part of preventing cyberattacks, as it helps to ensure that employees are following best practices and using strong passwords.

6. Conduct regular penetration testing

Penetration testing is a process of trying to gain access to a system in order to find security weaknesses. Conducting regular penetration tests is one tactic cybersecurity teams can employ to find and fix security vulnerabilities before they are exploited.