In the B2B environment today, 80% of seller-buyer interactions will happen digitally by 2025. B2B buyers’ increasing adoption of a digital-first approach to buying makes their internet activities that much more interesting to sellers. In order to properly market to current and prospective customers, sellers track, measure, and act upon buyers’ internet behaviors as much as possible.
This presents a challenge to both sides of the B2B buying journey. A business’s growing online presence—the content their employees create and consume, the purchases and searches they make, and other online activities—creates a digital identity that is susceptible to security breaches, such as a brute force attack.
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What Constitutes Digital Identity?
Digital identity is made up of the traces of a person’s, business’s, or entity’s digital activities. Digital activities include those performed online—searches, transactions, creating accounts, entering usernames and passwords, and any other information that identifies an entity’s past or current internet use patterns.
Digital identity differs from physical identity that can be verified in person by checking a passport, driver’s license, ID, or badge. Instead, digital identity is linked to various digital identifiers, including but not limited to:
- Email addresses
- User names
Why Does Digital Identity Matter for Enterprises?
Digital identity isn’t only for individual consumers in the B2C market; digital identities also apply to enterprises in the B2B environment.
Every time buyers or employees at corporations conduct searches, post or engage with content, or purchase products or services, the corporation leaves digital traces that make up the enterprise’s digital identity.
Digital identity is a set of behaviors and keystrokes that open up a business to digital identity theft. Because malicious actors can monitor behaviors—such as purchasing patterns and keystrokes—managing and securing a digital identity poses a formidable challenge for companies on both ends of a B2B transaction.
The onus of securing customer data that makes up a business’s digital identity falls to both sellers and buyers. Sellers need to be able to keep customer data secure, otherwise they risk losing customers and gaining a bad reputation for mishandling customer data. Investing in a secure CRM is therefore worthwhile. It’s also imperative to prove to buyers that their data is secure when they do business with you as the seller.
Corporate buyers, however, also have a responsibility to perform due diligence when making corporate purchases in order to protect their digital identity. This involves, for instance, researching potential vendors and evaluating their trustworthiness through their website and interactions with your company. Users should also be required to create complex passwords and prompted to update them regularly.
Best Practices for Protecting Digital Identity
A company should take a combination of systemic and behavioral measures to secure their digital identity.
Use a secure browser
Require strong passwords
Bad actors have sophisticated methods for cracking users’ passwords. It’s therefore critical to enforce strong password practices.
For instance, require users to create passwords that are at least 8-10 characters long and that contain a mix of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols. For added security, systematically prompt users to update their passwords at regular intervals.
Another way to protect passwords from attackers is to require different passwords for different apps and sites. To help users keep track of their passwords, adopt a secure password manager, such as 1Password or Bitwarden.
Enforce multi-factor authentication
Given that brute force attacks steal passwords, two-factor or multi-factor authentication presents an additional shield for digital identity. Multi-factor authentication comes in many forms.
To ensure that the user is indeed authorized to access the enterprise’s network, two-factor or multi-factor authentication requires users to enter a passcode sent by phone call or SMS to an affiliated phone number.
Alternatively, knowledge-based authentication requires users to answer their pre-set security questions that only they know the answers to. Such questions target trivial information, such as the name of one’s grade school or the name of their first pet.
Secure shell authentication
Besides authenticating users through 2FA, MFA, or knowledge-based authentication, some IAM platforms verify user access through SSH (secure shell) key management. This encrypts session activity within an app or at a website and encrypts passwords as well to create a shield around such activities that make up a company’s digital identity.
Another form of multi-factor authentication checks a user’s physical identity by reading biometrics through facial recognition, retinal scanning, or fingerprint scanning.
Adopt microsegmented access
In a B2B purchasing environment, it’s critical to make sure that only those who are involved in the buying decision have access to financial information, such as credit card numbers and corporate account numbers. Microsegmentation grants or restricts access to certain applications or sensitive data based on roles or identities within the organization.
For example, the 6-10 people in charge of software purchase and implementation will have access to subscriptions, past purchases, and credit card information. This access will either be based on their names or their job titles.
How Well-Protected is Your Organization’s Digital Identity?
Assume that any actions that shape your company’s digital identity—that is, activities that employees perform online through company accounts—are visible and vulnerable to bad actors. Employ a combination of best practices to secure your digital identity.