What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
We live at a time when a good deal of our sensitive or personal information is stored online. We use a variety of services that have access to our information, from accounts for online shopping to social media platforms that store sensitive information like credit card details.
And when someone gets into one of your online accounts, they may have access to a plethora of personal information they can use for things like identity theft or even just outright stealing your money.
Using strong, unique passwords is the first step in keeping information secure, which is why we are all encouraged not to duplicate passwords across platforms. But as careful as you may be, hacks happen, and sometimes your password will be in the cache of stolen data. Now consider if this happens to your business.
Multi-factor authentication protects your accounts and personal information with a strong layer of security. It is crucial to use the best and strongest security solutions so that our online accounts and devices are safe from cyber criminals and hackers. So, exactly what is multi-factor authentication and what are its benefits?
What Is Multi-Factor Authentication
According to the Computer Resource Center (CSRC), a simple multi-factor authentication definition is: an authentication system that uses more than one distinct authentication factor to authenticate a user's identity when logging on. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) emerged to improve the security of computer systems and online accounts when the traditional username and password combination might not be the most secure way to log in.
Usernames and passwords are generally stored in a database. Should that database be hacked and stolen, all the users' accounts and information are at risk. And it happens more often than we even realize, as many are not reported or reported months later without fanfare.
In addition, the increase of CPU processing speed has made brute force attacks more dangerous. The tools used to crack passwords can generate over 500 million passwords each second. But by using multi-factor authentication methods, no one can get into your account without also providing one or more additional authentication factors, even if they have stolen your password.
Generally, MFA uses a multi-factor authenticator or a combination of authenticators that rely on different bits of information. The three authentication factors used include something you know, something you own, and something you are.
Authentication Factors Used
To get a better sense of how all this works, here are some examples of the three authentication factors.
Something you know: This can be any piece of information that you know but that others can't easily figure out. For example, PINs and the answers to secret questions are authentication factors only you know.
Something you have: This authentication factor is a physical token that generates a secret code that serves as a single-use PIN. Other possessions can also be used, such as a bank card, employee ID card, key, smartphone, and even a digital certificate.
Something you are: Everyone person is unique, both physically and psychologically. Physical attributes such as fingerprints, facial features, retina scan, iris scan, or voice.
Additional authentication factors could include:
Location: With mobile and other devices increasingly in use, location is another way to verify identity. And on mobile devices, it gets easier since GPS can get the exact location.
Time: This authentication factor has uses in companies. The time of the account hijacking attacks can be checked against the work schedule of the user's stolen login, and the request can be refused. Also, if someone is using their credit card in one country, they obviously can't use it a few minutes later on the other side of the globe.
If one of these three authentication factors is used in tandem with a password, it is called two-factor authentication., a popular type of multi-factor authentication. No matter how many authentication factors are used with password protection, they deliver the same benefits – increased security.
Multi-factor authentication technologies include:
Software-based tokens: Can be embedded in devices such as PDAs, laptops, or mobile phones.
Security tokens: A physical device that authorizes access to a system, such as USB sticks, smart cards, or key fobs.
Mobile phone authentication: When you log on to an account from a desktop or laptop, you are required to verify your identity by a pop-up or code sent to your mobile phone.
Biometric authentication: Technology that helps identify users through their physical characteristics.
Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication offers increased security to businesses that have sensitive information that they want to keep from falling into the wrong hands. Below are the main benefits of multi-factor authentication.
Improved Work from Home and Overall Cyber Security
The most obvious and crucial benefit of multi-factor authentication is the improved security it offers businesses and organizations. This additional layer makes it harder for hackers to penetrate the system and gain access to sensitive information and vital systems.
Especially with so many employees currently working from homes and increased exposure to dangerous cyber threats like phishing, trusting your security to passwords with no other authentication factor is a mistake that could cost you more than money. The majority of data breaches are the result of compromised passwords. Because MFA reliably blocks 99.9% of automated password attacks, it should be a part of every business's IT security solutions.
Protection from Device and Login Credential Theft
It's not just cybercriminals entering commands on their computers to remotely get around state-of-the-art systems that detect intrusions. In some cases, all it takes is someone glancing at a remote employee's laptop and memorizing the password for an organization to lose valuable information.
Multi-factor authentication prevents credential theft by making sure a password alone is not enough to authenticate a login. When combined with full-disk encryption, MFA can also protect against device theft and the issues that come with it.
Regulatory Compliance and Consumer Confidence
Implementing MFA is often a critical prerequisite for being in compliance with industry data protection laws and regulations. For instance, credit card regulations require MFA to be implemented in specific situations to stop unauthorized access. Customers generally appreciate that their personal data is protected. Implementing MFA is ideal for businesses and organizations to burnish their reputation and cement their position as trustworthy business partners.
Compatible with Single Sign-On (SSO)
Single sign-on (SSO) enhances employee productivity and allows users to authenticate with multiple applications and websites with a single set of credentials. MFA can make SSO even more secure. When a user logs in, they can be sent a one-time password (OTP) on their smartphone. With this security, an active session can't be used to unlock additional digital information.
Easy to Implement, High User Acceptance
Supremely important and useful, MFA is one of the most straightforward cyber security solutions to implement. Most business software supports it, so implementing MFA is pretty much non-intrusive and generally incurs no downtime at all. And most users are familiar with it and happy with the additional security protecting their data.
Multi-Factor Authentication Solutions for Your Business
All businesses and organizations have systems and data to protect, even the smallest. Whether you are an eCommerce business that wants to protect your customers' data and keep your website working or an organization that wants to safeguard their intellectual property and everything in between, you are only as safe as your security.
If you are looking for multi-factor authentication for your business, contact Flagler Technologies IT solutions provider in Boca Raton today. We provide a range of solutions to keep your information safe and your business running efficiently. Contact Flagler Technologies today to begin implementing multi-factor authentication for your business. Call 561-229-1601.