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What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Passwords alone are not enough to keep your accounts safe. Swiping a password is as easy as crafting a deceptive email or breaching an organization’s data — tasks that allow hackers to obtain 100 stolen passwords every single second.

The use of passwords on their own can have downright terrible consequences. While complex password requirements can protect against theft, they’re also exceptionally easy to forget. What’s more, over 80 percent of internet users utilize the same password for multiple sites — a habit that could cost them multiple account breaches with just a single guessed password.

Fortunately, other options are available for keeping your information safe. More organizations have started to require multi-factor authentication (MFA) in the battle to protect consumer security. MFA has emerged as perhaps the most effective control for safeguarding user data. Thus, using MFA to protect your corporate data is essential.

What Is MFA?

Multi-factor authentication is the process of verifying a user using multiple factors rather than just a single password. It can be broken up into three parts:

  • What you know: The user must enter written information.
  • What you have: The user has a security token.
  • What you are: The user is approved based on biological traits.

You’ve likely used multi-factor authentication solutions hundreds of times in your life without realizing it. Swiping a card and entering your PIN at the ATM is a form of MFA, as well as validating a login on a new phone or computer using a one-time generated code. These actions protect your security by adding extra barriers a hacker must breach before they can successfully access your information.

Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication

Small and large businesses alike can stay safer, work smarter and stop threats in their tracks using multi-factor authentication. With MFA, you can:

  • Prevent unauthorized access to data: Perhaps the most significant advantage of MFA is its ability to protect your data better than nearly any other security solution. It uses the strength of various verification factors to combat the weaknesses of others. The result is layered and strengthened security. For example, a hacker might be able to guess your bank account’s password, but two-factor authentication through your mobile device ensures no one without access to your phone could log into your account.
  • Recognize threats before they cause damage: One benefit of MFA many people overlook is its ability to warn you of potential cyber attacks before they become imminent. For example, if someone types in your email password, you might be sent a one-time verification code on your phone that allows you to log into your account on a new computer. If you receive this code but have not recently tried to log into your email, you can reasonably assume an attempt was made to access your account. Then, you can change your password and take appropriate action.
  • Satisfy compliance requirements: Many industry, state and federal standards now mandate MFA use for specific situations. Failure to implement these additional security measures could result in hefty fines and other disciplinary actions if a regulatory body discovers your lack of MFA use during an audit.
  • Increase efficiency: Passwords are easily forgettable, and a single forgotten password could cost precious minutes of productivity while an employee racks their brain for the information or tries to reset their account. MFA offers a secondary entrance method — like a security question or fingerprint — in place of this forgotten information.

Types of Authentication Factors

An authentication factor is one of the credentials used to verify you as the owner of your accounts. Each authentication factor in multi-factor authentication offers an additional security layer that ensures you are who you say you are. Typical authentication factors include:

  • Knowledge: Knowledge-based credentials are the most commonly known and used types of authentication. These require you to provide information about yourself and your account to gain access. Examples include passwords, security questions, PINs and usernames.
  • Possession: One of the most obvious examples of possession authentication is the use of a key to gain access to a locked door. As in this example, possession authentication focuses on things you have in your physical ownership. These include smartphones, key fobs, employee IDs and bank cards.
  • Biometric: You can also use biological traits to confirm your identity. These factors are perhaps the hardest to replicate. They include iris scans, fingerprint scans, facial identification software and voice recognition.
  • Location: Current position is a fourth factor beginning to come into play more often when authenticating users. Since many people carry GPS-enabled smartphones, sites can use GPS to confirm your location at the workplace. Or, you can access information only when connected to a specific Wi-Fi network.
  • Time: The time an action takes place can also form a factor of identification. For example, if you use your bank card to take out money from a New York ATM and the same card number is used just minutes later at a European ATM, the bank can logically assume someone is using your account fraudulently.

When Should I Use MFA?

Try to use MFA wherever and whenever possible to keep all your accounts protected. You should especially secure your work email and any other accounts that contain business-related data you wouldn’t want the public to see. With the increase of cyber crimes against both small and large organizations, you can never be too cautious when securing your data and your business network.

Learn More About Two-Factor Authentication Solutions With Consolidated Technologies, Inc.

Data breaches can have drastic consequences on your business, and the rise of stolen passwords indicates something more effective is needed to protect organizations. If you’re looking for successful security solutions, Consolidated Technologies, Inc. can help.

We guide businesses throughout the New York Metropolitan area in implementing effective security strategies — including MFA. We even offer complete network security services to protect your organization’s critical data.

Learn more about how MFA and other security solutions can protect your data, reputation, customers and business with Consolidated Technologies, Inc. Contact us online or call (888) 477-4284 to get started.