There’s a digital gold rush happening right now. But it doesn’t involve miners seeking their fortune; it involves cybercriminals attempting to get their hands on any sensitive data they can find, so they can sell it to the highest bidder on the dark web.
Their victims? Organizations of all sizes, across all industries.
Many of the same organizations are stretching their budgets to implement the latest and greatest antivirus software, firewalls, and encryption, not realizing that weak or stolen passwords are the top cause of data breaches.
The solution? The reinforcement of the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain by implementing the so-called multi-factor authentication (MFA), a highly effective means of access control that minimizes the consequences of poor password hygiene. Read this article to learn the details of multi-factor authentication.
6 Critical Cybersecurity Policies Every Organization Must Have
What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?
The Computer Security Resource Center (CSRC) defines multi-factor authentication as an authentication system that requires more than one distinct authentication factor for successful authentication.
“Multi-factor authentication can be performed using a multi-factor authenticator or by a combination of authenticators that provide different factors. The three authentication factors are something you know, something you have, and something you are,” states CSRC.
Let’s take a closer look at the three authentication factors:
- Something you know: Any unique piece of information that others can’t easily guess can be used as an additional authentication factor. Examples include answers to secret questions and PINs.
- Something you have: Traditionally, this authentication factor is synonymous with physical tokens, which generate a secret code that basically acts as a one-time PIN. However, other possessions can also be used as authentication factors, including digital certificates.
- Something you are: Each person is unique. Not just psychologically but also physically. Everything from a fingerprint to patterns on a person’s retina blood can be used to uniquely identify a specific person.
When one of these three authentication factors is used in addition to a password, then we’re talking about two-factor authentication, which is a popular form of multi-factor authentication. But regardless of how many layers are added on top of password protection, they always deliver the same benefits.
This is an example of token that is used by some corporations to generate a random number. Now google authenticator app handles most modern MFA systems. The authenticator generates a six- to eight-digit one-time password (OTP) which users must enter in addition to their usual login details when logging into a site.
Advantages of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
The benefits of multi-factor authentication offer security to all organizations that have sensitive data they need to protect from falling into the wrong hands and prevent cyber security attacks.
1. Improved Security
The primary and most obvious benefit of MFA is that it greatly improves an organization’s security by adding another layer an intruder would have to penetrate in order to gain access to sensitive data and protected systems.
Especially now, when many employees are working from their homes, exposed to dangerous cyber threats such as phishing, relying on passwords alone can be a costly mistake. According to reputable password security statistics, about 80 percent of data breaches are caused by password compromise.
Because MFA can reliably block 99.9 percent of automated attacks on passwords, as revealed by Microsoft, it should be part of every organization’s cybersecurity toolkit.
2. Protection Against Credential and Device Theft
Not all data breaches involve a hoodie-wearing cybercriminal entering obscure commands on his computer to remotely circumvent state-of-the-art intrusion detection systems. Sometimes, all it takes for an organization to lose valuable data is someone glancing at a remote employee’s laptop and remember their password.
MFA protects against credential theft by ensuring that a password alone is never enough to authenticate a login attempt. When combined with full-disk encryption, it can also effectively protect against device theft and all the issues associated with it.
3. Easy to Implement
Out of all cybersecurity solutions that organizations can implement to protect themselves against the myriad of threats they face on a daily basis, MFA is among the least costly to implement. As long as your existing business software supports it, which it most certainly does, implementing any form of MFA can be virtually non-intrusive, causing no downtime whatsoever.
4. Single Sign-On (SSO) Compatibility
Single sign-on (SSO) is a productivity-enhancing authentication method that makes it possible for users to authenticate with multiple applications and websites with just one set of credentials. SSO is secure because of the relationship identity providers have with service providers.
However, SSO can be even more secure when paired with MFA. In practice, users who haven’t logged in yet to an application or website can be asked to enter a one-time password (OTP), delivered to them via a smartphone app or SMS message. That way, an active login session can’t be exploited to unlock additional digital doors.
5. Regulatory Compliance
Implementing MFA is often a key requirement for achieving compliance with data protection laws and regulations. A good example of this is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), which requires multi-factor authentication to be implemented in certain situations to prevent unauthorized access.
Of course, all customers can appreciate when their personal information is protected, so the implementation of MFA can be a great way for organizations to increase their reputation and establish themselves as trustworthy business partners.
Our Advice: Implement Multi-Factor Authentication Now
All organizations have important data and systems to protect, but traditional password-based authentication doesn’t deliver sufficient protection anymore. The good news, is that multi-factor authentication does quickly improve your security, and implementing it could hardly be any easier.
To get started with implementing MFA, contact us at OSIbeyond to assist you with securing your organization’s sensitive data and let our team help guide your business into the future of cyber security.