Cybercriminals launch more than 2,200 cyberattacks each day, and small to mid-sized businesses are a prime target. Unlike large enterprises, these organizations typically have limited resources which may prevent them from making the latest cyber security upgrades.
Despite this, there are steps that small-to-mid-sized businesses can take to mitigate these risks and improve data security. One of the simplest and most affordable is utilizing multi-factor authentication.
What Is MFA?
Multi-factor authentication (or MFA) is a process that requires users to submit more than one piece of evidence to gain access to their accounts. This authentication typically takes the form of providing a code that is linked to a different email or device, answering security questions, or with biometric information.
These secondary pieces of evidence must be provided along with password authentication for a user to complete their login and access account information.
What Does It Safeguard?
Most outdated systems rely solely on passwords to protect things like confidential emails, sensitive data, and financial information, but passwords are easily obtained in this day and age.
Whether through phishing attacks, brute force, malware, or old-fashioned guesswork, around 80% of all data security breaches are linked to poor security measures when it comes to passwords.
How Does It Work?
The specifics of MFA functionality vary based on the password authentication system in use. Generally speaking, multi-factor authentication aims to provide an additional layer of cyber security at the initial login phase.
First, the system will require the user to enter their password successfully. Because passwords are easily obtained by cybercriminals, this alone is not enough to deter them. However, once the password is entered and accepted by the system, a secondary form of verification is required.
The next verification stage is more difficult to navigate for cybercriminals because it may require access to a different device or information that they do not have.
For example, they may need to access the user’s cell phone to obtain a one-time code that the login attempt generated. Acquiring this code is a much more difficult feat for a cybercriminal and will prevent them from gaining access to an account.
Pros and Cons of Multi-Factor Authentication
The biggest benefit of multi-factor authentication is that implementing multi-factor authentication and a strong password can prevent as many as 99% of hacking attempts.
There are endless options when it comes to choosing an MFA system, and integration is seamless.
For example, Microsoft Authenticator is a simple solution for those using Microsoft 365 or Outlook, while Google Authenticator is ideal for Gmail or Google Workspace users. They are user-friendly and allow for central management and push notifications.
Fortunately, you generally won’t need more than one MFA system, so while Microsoft is ideal for Microsoft 365 users, you can also use Google, Authy, DUO, and similar services. In fact, even social media platforms will allow you to turn on multi-factor authentication, including Facebook and Instagram.
As for cons, MFA systems may be viewed as time-consuming or repetitive by employees. Likewise, it can be difficult to recover accounts in the case of a new or lost device. However, the user will only need to provide an MFA code on personal devices, especially if it’s a new or untrusted device.
Multi-Factor vs. 2-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication refers to a process that requires more than one form of evidence to be provided. Usually, these systems rely on two or three authenticators. On the other hand, 2-factor authentication systems only ever use two.
Types of MFA
There are three main types of MFA systems:
This type of MFA requires that the user provide a piece of information that they know, like a password, PIN, or pattern. These systems are referred to as knowledge-based authentication systems.
Possession-based MFA systems require users to have access to things like alternative email addresses or smartphones. This form will require the user to click a link or provide a code that is only accessible through the alternative device or system.
MFAs that use the “are” format rely on biometrics like fingerprint scans or voice recognition software to prove that the user attempting login is who they present themselves to be.
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With over 30 years of experience in the field, AngelCom is proud to serve small businesses for all of their security and IT needs. Contact us today to learn how we can help.