Multi Factor Authentication: What it is, why you need it & how to use it.

These days, passwords are no longer viewed as the most secure way to protect an account. Cyber-criminals have advanced exponentially in recent years as have the ways in which they can find out your credentials. By only using a password as an authentication method, the security of an account is based solely on the strength of a password. As years of research has illustrated, this is not generally vert strong. Two-thirds of people use the same password everywhere, and many of the passwords they use are easily guessed.

The combination of more sophisticated cyber-criminals and hacking methods with bad password hygiene from users has resulted in a surge of Multi-Factor Authentication use. Acorss the business environment it has been key in keeping business resources secure. Moreover, with the rise in working from home in 2020, IT departments must make sure it is as easy as possible for their workforce to safely access applications no matter where they are. According to data gathered from LastPass, around 57% of businesses were using multi factor authentication in 2019, a 12% gain on the stats gathered from the previous year.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) s a security protocol for account logins that requires a combination of three elements. Each element must be done so correctly for users to be able to gain access to the account or network. These include:

  • Something you know

This is generally your password. However, it can be anything you are able to remember such as a PINs, combinations or code words.

  • Something you have

This can vary depending on the platform, your organisation or the network you are accessing. It includes all items that are physical objects. For instance, smart phones or keys which produce randomly generated codes.

  • Something you are

This includes any part of the human body that can be offered for verification. For example, fingerprints or facial recognition.

MFA can sometimes be confused with two-factor authentication. 2FA only requires a combination of the first two elements; something you know and something you have. If businesses decide they want to have more than three elements, there is sometimes the option to have users confirm where they are. For instance, an IP address not recognised by the system will have access denied.

Why you need MFA

MFA adds that extra layer to account access which makes it more secure than only a username and password. Here are the top reasons why you should implement it in the login processes across your business.

  1. Protect your business and the identity of staff

The purpose of multi-factor authentication is that each element compensates for the weakness of others. For example, where passwords and pins are susceptible to brute-force attacks, a type of cyber-attack where the hacker uses a software which uses trial-and-error to go through all possible combinations until it hits yours, something you have such as a code on your phone isn’t so easily guessed. This protects your organisation as reduces the risk of cyber-criminal gaining access to business accounts. It also prevents identity theft as a hacker needs to not only guess a password but have other elements too. The more a cyber-criminal requires, the harder it becomes.

  1. Rise in cyber attacks

Cyber-attacks are a daily concern for organisations. It is now a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ one will occur. In 2019, more than half of British firms reported a cyber-attack. Securing your applications and networks with MFA is vital to improve cyber-security in your organisation and help prevent an attack.

  1. Stolen and weak passwords

For years now, passwords have been the default security measure. However, they are not secure. In 2017, 80% of data breaches were the result of passwords being either too weak or easily stolen. Strong passwords are a rarity these days, with many of us opting to use ones that are easy to remember. As you can imagine, these are, therefore, easy to crack.

  1. Simplification of login process

While you may think having multiple authentication methods would make the login process more complex, this is not the case. MFA is a simple and inexpensive security measure. It also gives businesses access to more advanced login options such as ‘single sign-on’. With single sign-on users are validated through MFA in the login process, meaning that once the user is authenticated, they are logged into the single sign-on software. As a result, users don’t have to provide authentication elements for each app separately.

  1. Secures remote access

Remote access has been great for allowing workforces to work from home throughout lockdowns. Unfortunately, this shift has also created a rise in cyber-attacks on workers who do not have sufficient security measures in place. In a recent survey looking into the effects COVID-19 had on the security of remote working, 91% of executives stated that working from home led to a rise in attacks. What’s more – the survey found little confidence among respondents that the rollout to remote working had been done securely! MFA is one of the best ways to grant remote access while also protecting against cyber-criminals and attacks on remote workers.

  1. To stay compliant

In order to comply with compliance standards, MFA is often mandatory for companies who deal with sensitive data. For example, personally identifiable information or financial details. Even if the business activities of your company do not specifically require MFA, it is normally a good step to take.

How to use MFA

At the very least, we should all have a strong password and MFA turned on for our email accounts. If a cyber-criminal get access to your email, they can compromise all your accounts by selecting ‘forgot password’. However, in a world where cyber-attacks so common, it pays to switch on MFA across all online logins and platforms.

The good news is, for most platforms, this can be done so easily. It is a simple as getting your staff members to turn the service on. They will then need to head to settings followed by the security section. From there, each platform will walk them through the process of setting it up.

There are also a number of tools available that make MFA a possibility on platforms that do not offer it. For example, free services include Google Authenticator enable 2FA. However, if you require something more complex, you may want to consider a platform like Myki.

MFA is an essential component of cyber-security

Data breaches and cyber-attacks are very real these days. Fortunately, businesses are beginning to realise this and are implementing MFA to help. MFA will not only improve your business security, but it simplifies login processes, secures remote access and help you stay compliant no matter what industry you are in.