Multi-Factor Authentication: Why the Extra Step Is Worth Your Data Security

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Data security has become more significant in the ever-evolving cloud technology era, as cybercriminals are consistently employing new tricks and methods to access individuals’ and businesses’ sensitive data. This implies that passwords are not enough to keep business accounts secure and it also highlights the need for the adoption of multi-factor authentication [MFA] solutions.

The rise in the use of SaaS has enabled businesses to have a plethora of accounts that comprise the company’s information and customer’s data that needs to be highly safeguarded. It has become challenging to manage this sensitive data as an average corporate user now has over 50 accounts to handle. This drives employees to seek easy measures of managing the numerous accounts by using easily guessed or reusing the same password across multiple accounts. This lapse leaves a void in the overall security of any business making them vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Every login into apps and devices is a pathway into business data. A recent report by Verizon indicates that 81% of data breaches involved easily guessed passwords. The adoption of MFA can facilitate the use of multiple layers of security, thereby ensuring that there are little to no security risks.

The focus of this article is to highlight the importance of MFA and data security.

What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-factor authentication is a security protocol that requires the user to double- or triple-verify their authentication before they are granted access to the account. The first authentication credential includes the username and password while the second is a security token or a code sent via mail or text. The main purpose of MFA is to provide an extra security barrier to protect the account against unauthorized users.

Multi-Factor Authentication Versus Multi-Step Authentication: What’s the Difference?

Multi-factor authentication and multi-step authentication are two different authentication methods that are used interchangeably but offer diverse means of verifying identification. Multi-factor authentication employs two or more factors to verify the user’s identity such as password and verifying

code sent by text. An example of this is the Apple phone security set of measures. The phone requests the user’s Face ID and Passcode before granting access. With that, the user is meant to provide one piece of information [face ID] but will be required to use a passcode if the previous option provided was not successful.

Gmail also uses the MFA process by requesting the user’s email address and password in the boxes provided to get authenticated.

There are multiple steps involved in an MFA, it utilizes different resources of the same authentication factor to grant access to the user. It is an additive protocol that requires the user to pass through two or more steps of authentication before granting access. For instance, an MFA can request a fingerprint scan and then proceeds to request an authentication resource of the same factor such as a Face ID or a retina scan. Amazon, for instance, supports two-step authentication for users before they are granted access to their accounts. When the two-step authentication is activated, the user is required to provide two forms of verification. This includes the username and password combination, and a code that is generated by the authenticator app which is attached to the password. The app-generated code is updated every minute and is synchronized with the server’s code. Although the two pieces of information provided originate from different sources, they are information possessed by the user, which means they are from the same factor.

What sets them apart is their different approach to authenticating a user. While MFA uses different factors to authenticate a user, multi-step authentication uses resources from the same factor. MFA is considered to be more secure because of its multi-layered defense system. While it is possible for a hacker to steal a password or buy it on the dark web, gaining access to a second authentication factor is arduous and requires much more effort.

8 Reasons Why Multi-Factor Authentication Is Gaining Importance

Multi-factor authentication is currently gaining wide adoption and recognition because of its innumerable benefits and features that can be leveraged to improve businesses. Here is a quick look at the reasons why it has gotten such reverence recently.

1. Multi-Factor Authentication Is More Robust Than 2FA

There are two types of factors involved in Apple’s security barrier; Face ID and Passcode. While this form of authentication can be called multi-factor authentication, it is technically a 2FA.

A 2FA authentication comprises two elements: information the user possesses [such as a debit card, smartphone, or fingerprint], and information the user knows [such as a pin or password]. The first factor includes the password, while the second factor requires something that the user possesses. The bottom line is that 2FA depends on a second party to authenticate.

However, MFA takes things further on the security scale by requiring the user to provide three or more forms of verification. Over the years, MFA has been enabled to incorporate location-based authentication to verify the user’s location. This is done by detecting the IP address of the user’s device and by employing GPS tracking.

Another factor that makes it stand out is the use of behavioral biometrics which involves analyzing the user’s peculiar behavior patterns to verify their identity. The behavioral pattern includes a specific keystroke pattern on a keyboard or gesture on a touchscreen.

2. Multi-Factor Authentication Is Easy to Set Up

MFA might seem like a convoluted process, but it is straightforward to set up. Most digital services offer MFA as an additional security feature that can be activated in the account settings. Users are allowed to choose authentication methods that suit them, test these methods and activate MFA to improve the security of their accounts.

3. Multi-Factor Authentication Protects Your Online Identity

With the increasing number of cybercrimes, MFA has become a vital security feature for anyone that values their online privacy. It minimizes the risk of unauthorized access to your account by requiring multiple forms of authentication. MFA protects your online identity by including an additional layer of protection to your login process to protect against phishing attacks orchestrated by hackers and impersonators.

4. Multi-Factor Authentication Meets the Prerequisites for Regulatory Compliance

MFA has become an integral tool for meeting regulatory compliance standards across diverse industries. MFA provides organizations with the flexibility to manage access policies. That is, they are able to control the number of times certain information can be accessed. MFA meet the prerequisites by

providing an additional layer of security measures for organizations such as the Health Insurance Portability [HIPAA], Card Industry Data Security [PCI DSS], the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act [GLBA], and the General Data Protection Regulation [GDPR] to reduce their risk of data breaches and protect their sensitive data.

5. You Can Sync Multi-Factor Authentication With Single Sign-On (SSO) Solutions

One key benefit of MFA is its ability to synchronize with SSO solutions. SSO is a login method that enables users to have one set of information to access varied applications. With its streamlined approach, users can access multiple applications with the same credentials without having to reset or input their information. By syncing with SSO, organizations can include an extra layer of security measures to their SSO and provide robust security authentications that enhance user experience and data security.

6. Multi-Factor Authentication Adapts to Changing Work Policies

MFA has a diverse range of features that allows it to adapt to company’s policies and environments. This has enabled it to contribute to the rise of remote work by providing multiple layers of security that allow employees to access work data from anywhere and on any device.

Additionally, MFA can be configured to change policies and integrated with other security solutions such as identity and access management [IAM] to provide a comprehensive security solution that facilitates seamless collaboration at the workplace.

7. Multi-Factor Authentication Secures Without Compromising User Experience

MFA provides a wide range of authentication services that are integrated seamlessly into the login system to ensure a positive user experience. These services not only provide strong security measures but ensure that users are not inconvenienced during the authentication process.

8. Multi-Factor Authentication Is the Future of Cybersecurity

MFA is widely recognized as the future of cybersecurity due to its multi-layered authentication system. With the increasing number of cyber attacks faced across diverse industries, organizations are turning to

MFA for strong security measures to safeguard their data and ensure seamless workflow. MFA is constantly evolving with new authentic methods and technologies developed to meet the needs of organizations and workplaces.

MFA is considered the holy grail of cyber security as it has dynamic features designed to meet the ever evolving needs of the cybersecurity landscape.

Due to its numerous peculiarities, MFA has become a standard security practice across varied industries including finance, healthcare, and government.

How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work?

MFA works by organizing a series of steps that users are required to navigate through to gain access into their accounts. MFA has multiple layers of security protocols set to protect a user’s account against unauthorized users or hackers.

The steps involved in an MFA process include:

● Username and Passwords

This is the first authentication factor that must be provided by the user for verification.

● MFA requests for additional authentication

This is the second authentication. MFA prompts the user for additional information that could include a security question, pin, biometrics, or a physical token such as a USB key or a smart card.

● MFA verifies the additional authentication

After submitting the full credentials, access can either be granted or denied to the user. It all depends on the information submitted by the user.

What Are the Methods of Multi-Factor Authentication?

There are several methods required to verify a user’s account beyond the two[username and password] factors. Here is a quick look at some of the widely used MFA methods:

● One-Time Passwords [OTP]

An OTP is a generated code that is sent to the user’s registered device via a mobile app, text message or email to verify the user’s identity. The code is built to run for only a minute [in some cases, 30 seconds], and can only be used once.

● Biometric Authentication

This employs the use of the user’s physical characteristics such as facial identification, retina scans or fingerprints to verify the user’s identity.

● Push Notifications

These are pop-up messages that are sent to a user’s device to notify them of any log-in activity. These messages can appear on the phone even when the app is not in use.

Conclusion

To sum it up, multi-factor authentication is an essential component of online security that provides an additional layer of protection against unauthorized access. By requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification, MFA can significantly reduce the risk of cyber attacks and password theft. Moreover, MFA solutions are designed to be easy to integrate with existing systems, and can be tailored to meet the needs and requirements of each user or organization. Ultimately, MFA represents an important step towards ensuring the safety and integrity of online accounts and information.

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