Why Multi Factor Authentication Is Essential
Cybercriminals are increasingly horning their skills, so traditional passwords are no longer secure enough. From simple spraying and relaying attacks to sophisticated pharming and spear-phishing, hackers have developed multiple effective methods of stealing user credentials and gaining unauthorized access to individual and business accounts. In fact, cybercriminals have over 15 billion stolen credentials to leverage to access private user accounts. By getting hold of your credentials, hackers could take over your financial accounts, business secrets, health care records, and more.
To properly secure your accounts, it’s vital to deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA), an electronic authentication technique that requires the user to provide at least two or more identity verification details before gaining access to an online account, website, application, or application network.
How Does MFA Work?
MFA systems typically don’t eliminate usernames and passwords but just layer on an extra verification method to ensure that only the right users gain access and malicious actors are blocked out.
So, here is how a typical MFA works:
- Registration: You link a device such as a key fob or cellphone to the system and verify that this device is yours.
- Login: You enter your username and password to log into a secure system.
- Verification: The system automatically connects with the registered device and sends a one-time verification code to your cellphone or a light-up on your key fob.
- Authorization: You complete the login process by inputting the verification code or pushing a button on your key fob.
Depending on the sensitivity of your account, you may choose to require MFA for every login, remember devices, or even set up a “do-not-disturb for the next 30 days.” The latter can be helpful if you use the same device often.
Why You Need Multi-factor Authentication
MFA is a simple process but is remarkably effective in securing user accounts. According to Microsoft, MFA blocks nearly 100 percent of user account hacks. There are three common types of MFA. They include:
- Something you know – such as a password, secret knock, or PIN.
- Something you have – includes physical objects, such as a smart card, cellphone, or a key fob.
- Something you are – mostly biometric verification with a fingerprint, voice recognition, or retina scan.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) utilizes two of the above possible checks for user access verification and authorization, while MFA uses more than two checks, making it even more solid.
Overall, here are some reasons you need to implement multi-factor authentication.
MFA Enables Stronger Authentication
With the heightening risks of cyber-attacks, multi-factor authentication is expanding exponentially. In a world where more than 80 percent of hacking-related breaches emanate from stolen or weak passwords, having this kind of bulletproof authentication method is essential. MFA grants user access based on several weighted factors, hence reducing the risks of malicious actors using compromised passwords to access your system.
Protects Against Identity Theft Through Stolen Passwords
Credentials harvesting is increasingly evolving. Hackers can easily steal passwords through the following means:
- Keylogging – secretly recording the keys you press on the keyboard.
- Phishing – fraudulently asking a victim to share sensitive information through SMS, email, phone call, etc.
- Pharming – installing malicious code into a device to redirect the user to a malicious site where they unknowingly enter sensitive information.
MFA ensures that your company remains secure, even if your employees’ passwords have been leaked. While the hacker may have the correct user name and password, they won’t pass the second or third authentication layer, which may require a one-time pin from the user device or biometric verification.
MFA Enhances Security in a Changing Workplace Environment
As many organizations adopt the hybrid working model, with more employees working outside the office, there is a need for more advanced MFA systems to manage complex access requests. Adaptive MFA evaluates the risks users present whenever they request access to a system, tool, network, or information. It looks at details such as the user’s device, location, and time for context.
So, instead of being inobtrusive to the user, adaptive MFA allows system admins to adapt the security level needed based on the context of their login attempts. For example, if a user logs into his corporate email from the company headquarters, he won’t be prompted to provide MFA. But if the user attempts to log in from a different country while on holiday, the system should ask for MFA.
MFA Helps You Stay Compliant
Several federal and state laws require organizations to establish strong authentication processes, particularly for those that handle and store sensitive user data such as personal addresses or financial information. Whether the information pertains to your client, employees, or your organization, MFA can help you stay compliant with prevailing identity and access management regulations. Common examples are HIPAA for healthcare transactions and SOX for financial services.
Pros and Cons of Multi-Factor Authentication
Of course, multi-factor authentication isn’t perfect. It still requires additional overhead with employee onboarding and system administration. Here are the pros and cons of multi-factor authentication:
- Almost bulletproof secure: With MFA, hackers will not gain access to your system even if they manage to secure your credentials; they’ll still have a second or third layer to penetrate.
- Protects sensitive information: MFA protects users’ sensitive information, relieving your IT admin from the anxiety of data falling into the wrong hands.
- No worries about lost devices: Device-based MFA can be paired with full-disk encryption to ensure that lost devices don’t result in compromised access or data loss.
- Added friction: If you can’t access your registered device or system for authentication and you don’t have a backup resource, you won’t gain access to your account regardless of the urgency.
- Time-consuming: Users typically spend extra time logging in to the system and verifying via mobile devices.
- Inconsistencies: Implementing multi-factor authentication across your entire organization may be difficult as the process depends on the end-user to implement it fully.
Overall, implementing adaptive multi-factor authentication can significantly enhance IT security without creating much burden for the end-user.
Multi-factor authentication is relatively inexpensive and easy to deploy. With proper implementation, it provides simple but effective protection to your individual employees and the wider business network. So, if you need to deploy MFA in your organization, Mathe is your trusted IT partner.
We provide cloud desktop and cloud infrastructure services to organizations throughout the United States. Our IT experts specialize in secure cloud desktop solutions through our IT Fortress brand. Besides, our goal is to provide your company with the exceptional IT services and cloud technologies you need, allowing you and your team to focus on what matters – your clients and your business. Contact Mathe today to schedule your consultation!
With over 35 years in the business of supporting and implementing technology for the SME market, and 6 years previously in Corporate IT and Voice. I have seen a great deal of change. The only common thread is I have always focused on the Business Wise application of Technology. We always try to look 5 years ahead of the current technology to make sure our clients are on the right track to meet current and future needs.