Do you remember the last time you had a code sent to your phone or email to verify your login to a website? What about swiping your debit or credit card and being prompted to enter your PIN to complete the transaction? Both of these scenarios are examples of multi-factor authentication in action.
Multi-Factor authentication is a multi-step system for verifying the identity of a user during the login process. It requires the person logging in to provide two or more pieces of sensitive information to verify they are an authorized user, and only when all of the authentication information has been entered correctly are they granted access. As the rate of cybercrime continues to rise, more and more businesses are implementing a multi-factor authentication system to protect their company network from unauthorized use.
Research shows that 61 percent of online users use the same password across all their online accounts. This makes it easy for cybercriminals to obtain employee login information and execute a security breach on a password-only system. In addition to requiring password changes on a regular basis, you can use multi-factor authentication to mitigate this risk.
A strong multi-factor authentication process requires the user to provide their password, authentication token, and biometric identification at the time of login. If any one of these items does not match the server’s database, the login will be denied.
Employing Multiple Factors
With the added layers of protection provided by multi-factor authentication, hacking into the company network isn’t as simple as obtaining an employee password. Beyond password entry, employees and other network users should be required to satisfy three factors: a knowledge factor, a possession factor, and an inherence factor. The integration of multiple factors is what gives multi-factor authentication its name.
The knowledge factor is a piece of information only the intended user knows, such as the answer to a security question or a one-time password that was sent to the authorized phone number or email address. After entering the account password, a multi-factor authentication system will prompt the user to enter this information to verify the login.
Satisfying the possession factor requires the user to interact with an authorized device to verify their identity. This might be a phone, USB, or keycard that only the authorized user would have on hand. The authentication system may send a code to the authorized device, provide instructions for keying a set of numbers into the authorized device, or require the user to scan their authorized device or security item into the computer.
Inherence factors assess traits that are unique to an individual and can’t be replicated by hackers. These generally include a biometric authentication component such as face, fingerprint, and voice recognition. Some companies even use retina scans.
Tools for Multi-Factor Authentication
There are a wide variety of tools available for verifying the identity of an account user. You don’t need them all, so choose the verification methods that work best for your team. Some of these include security questions, one-time passwords, mobile push notifications, SMS notifications, email authentication, phone call PIN authentication, and smart cards. If you need advice on which authentication methods would work best for your organization, your local JGS agent would love to help design a set of tools that’s right for you.
Location-Based Multi-Factor Authentication
Oftentimes, cybercriminals are not local to your area. Location-based multi-factor identification accesses the geolocation of the device attempting a login and assesses whether or not the attempt is coming from an unusual location. If the account activity is suspicious, a multi-factor system will create additional layers of verification to prevent a successful login from an unauthorized user.
Multi-Factor Authentication Pros and Cons
Multi-Factor authentication is quickly gaining momentum because it makes it nearly impossible for cybercriminals to gain access to protected networks. It also mitigates the risk of employees who use the same password for several accounts or who don’t have strong passwords, which is a huge risk factor for many companies.
The immense benefits of multi-factor authentication come at a cost, however. Setup can be expensive because it requires changes to logistics and additional training for your IT team. It also makes logins more time consuming for everyone in your organization, and you’ll be challenged with the task of making sure everyone is adhering to the multi-factor authentication requirements for their accounts.
With that said, the advantages of multi-factor authentication greatly outweigh the drawbacks, and we highly recommend activating a comprehensive multi-factor authentication system across all of your company networks and digital resources. Note that opting for multi-factor authentication on some outlets and not others could still leave you vulnerable to an attack, so play it safe and enable multi-factor authentication on all in-house and cloud-based servers, VPNs, firewalls, workstations, and network devices.
Secure Your Organization Today
Having a multi-factor authentication tightens loose ends by providing additional layers of security and significantly reduces your chances of a security breach. Although it can be expensive to set up, the costs of lawsuits and data recovery in the event of a cyberattack make it worth it. Your insurance provider will also consider that you have added security measures in place when assessing your premiums each year.
If you need help getting started with your multi-factor authentication system setup or if you’re looking for advice on which factors are recommended for your company, contact us today.