It’s important to understand that cybercriminals are just as sophisticated and innovative as modern IT security solutions. Often working in teams, hackers have a number of tools and resources at their disposal to access confidential data, some of which help them easily defeat traditional data security controls.
The Purpose of Multifactor Authentication
Multifactor Authentication (or MFA) has become a critical, preventative security measure for businesses and organizations of all sizes, and any individual who uses a smart device in their daily life. It offers an added layer of security that compliments how passwords are used to protect private data, thereby making it more difficult for potential hackers to exploit and obtain personal data, or to breach company networks.
To explain it simply, an authentication factor is a credential used to verify the identity of a person, entity, or system. When multifactor authentication is in place, more than one credential is required prior to granting access to private systems or data.
Incidents such as the Facebook security breach in 2018, which exposed the personal information of over 50 million users, have forced companies to add a layer of security to their platforms. Tech giants including Twitter and Google have since adopted MFA to protect their users and their data.
Commonly Utilized Authentication Factors
When it comes to identifying individual users, a combination of three authentication factors are traditionally used:
- Knowledge Factor – This is information that is known only to the user – for example, a series of security questions, PIN codes, or unique usernames and passwords
- Possession Factor – This refers to something that a user owns – for example, a smart card, a smartphone, or an OTP (one-time passcode)
- Inherence Factor – This refers to something that is exclusive to an individual user – for example, fingerprints, facial biometrics, voice controlled locks, or eye scans – any biometric element that can prove the user’s identity.
Typically, multifactor authentication combines at least two of the factors mentioned above – and in some cases, all three can be combined for added security.
Advantages of Multifactor Authentication for Businesses
Enhancing Compliance and Mitigating Legal Risks
Apart from data encryption, state and federal governments have also made it mandatory for certain businesses to implement multi-factor authentication into standard operating procedures at the end-user level.
For example, businesses who have employees that work with PII (Personally Identifiable Information), Social Security, or financial information, are bound by state and federal statutes to integrate multi-factor authentication into their security protocols. MFA is actually required to meet mandatory compliance standards.
Making the Login Process Less Daunting
Many non-regulated businesses resist MFA implementations, fearing a more complex login process for employees and customers.
However, this extra layer of security enables organizations to redefine and reimagine their login processes on the road to enhanced security.
Setting Security Expectations
Identifying security requirements and expectations at your organization is an important part of any MFA implementation. For example, your industry, business model, applicable compliance regulations (if any) and the type of data you capture, utilize, and store to conduct normal business operations are important considerations. An MFA implementation is an opportunity for every organization to identify and classify common business scenarios based on risk level and determine when MFA login is required.
Based on a combination of factors, organizations might optionally decide that MFA is only required in certain high-risk scenarios, when accessing certain applications or databases, or when employees login remotely, offsite, or when accessing internal systems for the first time using a new device.
MFA can also be used to set a limit on where a user can access your information from. If your employees are out in the field, and they use their own devices for work, your data is at a higher risk of theft, particularly when employees connect from external WIFI networks that are not secure.
MFA can be used to restrict user access based on their location. This means that if a user tries to access company data from an off-site location, you can easily verify whether or not they are actually an employee by requiring biometric authentication.
Organizations who are considering MFA often decide to implement more sophisticated logins – for example, a single-login or sign-on; which is not only secure but actually makes signing into multiple systems easy, using one set of login credentials.
Single-sign-on authenticates the person accessing the information via MFA. Once it is confirmed that a user is authorized to access the content, they are automatically granted access to other systems associated with their user profile. This means they have access to multiple applications, without the need to log in to each one separately.
Many people now believe that passwords are dead – and for good reason. Aside from obvious risk factors involved with writing down login credentials or sharing them with unauthorized users, managing different and complex passwords for all your applications and devices means employees need to remember all of them – not exactly an easy job. This is exactly why corporate help-desks are bogged down with password reset requests – and why people have a hard time following best-practices for frequently resetting their passwords in apps that don’t require it. When an organization selects a SSO solution that features biometric authentication, it’s an opportunity to eliminate employee passwords completely.
For these reasons, a SSO type of solution is very practical – especially since the most challenging part of successfully implementing MFA is simplifying the login process.
MFA Is a Vital Aspect of Effective Cybersecurity
As cybercrimes continue to increase, organizations are beginning to realize the full scope of the threats that they now face. Modern cyber criminals don’t just target big corporations. 31% of businesses with an employee count of less than 250 have been popular targets of cybercrime.
It is also important to understand that cybercriminals aren’t just stealing critical data. Often, they aim to corrupt your data, or destroy it entirely. This is often carried out by installing difficult-to-detect malicious software (malware) that disrupts business and services, and spreads fear and propaganda.
As a result, the market for multifactor authentication is expected to reach $12.51 billion in the next 4 years.
A Great Step Towards Enhancing Mobile Engagement
Like it or not, we are in the middle of a digital transformation that’s not slowing down; and we are in it for the long haul. (If you’re part of the vast majority that can’t go anywhere without their smartphone, we’re willing to bet that you like it.) As part of all this, we have, collectively, become used to having access to all the resources and information we want and need – on the go, from anywhere in the world, any time we want it. This is the height of digital convenience, and something that has brought about many positive changes in the world of business and in society It also continues to introduce new challenges in terms of data security. MFA offers a streamlined method of ensuring user authentication –allowing you to ensure security with greater certainty, without sacrificing ease of access.