Multi-factor authentication (mfa authentication)

In today’s digital age, maintaining the safety and security of our online accounts is more important than ever.

Multi-factor authentication, also known as MFA authentication, is one of the most effective methods to accomplish this. MFA authentication is a security procedure that necessitates the use of multiple identifiers in order to access accounts.

Typically, this consists of something the user knows, such as a password, and something the user has, such as a smartphone or security token.

MFA authentication significantly reduces the risk of unauthorised access and protects sensitive information by requiring multiple factors for authentication. 

MFA stands for Multi-Factor Authentication.

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) is an authentication method that requires the user to provide two or more verification factors in order to access a resource, such as an application, online account, or VPN.

MFA is essential to a robust identity and access management (IAM) policy. MFA requires one or more additional verification factors in addition to a username and password, which reduces the likelihood of a successful cyber attack. 

MFA aims to establish a multilayered defence that makes it more difficult for an unauthorised individual to gain access to a target, such as a physical location, computing device, network, or database.

If one factor is compromised or damaged, the attacker must still overcome at least one or more barriers before gaining access to the target.

Why is an MFA so important?

More than 15 billion hijacked credentials are available to cybercriminals. If they select yours, they may gain access to your bank accounts, medical records, trade secrets, and more.

MFA will increase the security of your organisation by requiring users to identify themselves with more than just a username and password. While usernames and passwords are essential, they are susceptible to brute force attacks and can be hijacked by third parties.

Enforcing the use of a multi-factor authentication (MFA) factor, such as a fingerprint or hardware key, increases your organization’s security against cybercriminals.

Multi-factor authentication is crucial because it makes information theft more difficult for the average criminal. The less desirable your data is, the more likely it is that criminals will target someone else.

Introducing Adaptive MFA

As the workplace evolves and more employees work remotely, businesses require more sophisticated MFA solutions to manage increasingly complex access requests. 

Unlike multi-factor authentication, adaptive multi-factor authentication evaluates the risk a user poses whenever they request access to a tool or piece of information by considering details such as the user’s device, location, and context.

An employee who logs in from the office, for instance, is in a trusted location and may not be prompted for an additional security factor.

However, if the same employee logs in from a coffee shop, uses their personal mobile phone to check work email, or connects via an unsecured WiFi network, they may be prompted to verify an additional factor because they are using an untrusted location, device, or connection. 

Adaptive MFA also enables dynamic policy changes and step-up authentication, which are crucial controls for protecting sensitive data. For instance, users may be prompted for a second factor with a higher level of assurance (or even a third factor) before gaining access to highly sensitive information.

How Does Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Work?

MFA authentication functions by requiring additional verification factors, such as information, to access a secure system. One of the most common MFA factors encountered by users is One-Time Passwords (OTPs).

OTPs are 4-8-digit credentials that are frequently sent via email, SMS, or a mobile application. Either periodically or each time an authentication request is made, OTPs generate a new code based on a seed value assigned to the user during registration and another variable, such as a simple incrementing counter or a time value.

The typical MFA procedure is as follows:

  • A person registers a device, such as a mobile phone or key device, by linking it to the system and claiming ownership.
  • The user inputs a username and password to access the secure system.
  • The system connects to the registered device for verification. Phones may vibrate with verification codes, or key fobs may light up.
  • The user completes the procedure with the authenticated device, usually by entering verification codes or pressing a button on a key fob.
  • Some systems require verification each time a user logs in, while others remember devices. If the user always uses the same computer or phone to log in, they may not have to verify each time. Verification may be required if the user attempts to log in from a new device or at an unusual time.
  • According to Microsoft, MFA prevents nearly 100 percent of account breaches, making it an astonishingly effective security measure.

MFA authentication procedures typically rely on one of the following three categories of additional information:

  • Knowledge the user possesses, such as a password or PIN.
  • Possessions, such as a credential or smartphone.
  • Inherence, such as fingerprints or voice recognition biometrics.

Examples of Multi-Factor Authentication include combining the following authentication factors:

1. Knowledge

Typically requires the user to respond to a personal security question, such as passwords, PINs, or one-time passwords.

2. Possession

Requires the user to possess a badge, token, key fob, or SIM card for their mobile phone. A smartphone can often serve as the possession factor for mobile authentication with the help of an OTP app.

3. Inherence

Uses fingerprints, facial recognition, voice, or other biometric identifiers. 

Other types of Multi-Factor Authentication include location-based authentication, which examines the IP address and geolocation of the user, and material key authentication, which uses a physical key to access information. 

Final takeaways 

In conclusion, the importance of protecting our online accounts cannot be overstated. With the growing threat of cyber attacks and identity theft, Multi-Factor Authentication is a necessity.

It significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access and protects sensitive information by requiring multiple forms of identification. Whether it’s for an email, social media, or financial account, MFA can provide an additional layer of protection and peace of mind.

It only takes a few minutes to set up, but it could prevent a security breach in the future. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Take action today to protect yourself and your business from cyber security threats. Consult with a trusted IT professional to implement the right solutions and stay vigilant against potential attacks.

CyberSecurity Solutions

Related articles:

2FA Two-Factor Authentication: Basic Cybersecurity Tips

7 Common Types of Data Vulnerability in Cybersecurity

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