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August 12, 2018
What is Multi-Factor Authentication?
August 12, 2018
Passwords used to be the be-all and end-all of account protection. As long as your password was long enough, unique enough, and complicated enough with a good mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, it was practically crack-proof. Those days, however, are long gone. That’s because hackers, unfortunately, have many methods of stealing or obtaining passwords at their disposal. One method is brute force, which is a time-consuming but aggressive tactic for determining passwords using application programs that go through all possible combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols to find a password. Clever cyber thieves who prefer to let the victims themselves do some of the work employ social engineering attacks like phishing emails, which are disguised as messages from familiar sources like a bank and ask the user to update his account or make a payment with a provided link. The link, however, takes a victim to a fake website that acquires the victim’s username and password once he enters his credentials on what he thinks is his bank account website.Internet technologies have been a two-edged sword that has allowed users to do so much online while creating gateways for cyber criminals to infiltrate networks and devices to steal data and compromise organizations. As a result, IT and cybersecurity professionals have created a method for users and organizations to use that does not totally wipe out account attacks but makes them harder to pull off: multi-factor authentication. Virtually every type of application providing accounts, from email and bank apps to social media sites, provides its users with the option of using multi-factor authentication (MFA), also called two-factor authentication (2FA), to log into their accounts. Some vigilant users who come across this authentication option take advantage of it, but others glance at it and ignore it, assuming that it’s an extra time-consuming step that they don’t have time to do. However, MFA doesn’t necessarily make the login process more complicated; it can actually make it quicker and easier, in addition to making it safer. Keep reading for an explanation on how multi-factor authentication works and the benefits it offers both individual users and organizations.
How Multi-Factor Authentication WorksMulti-factor authentication is based on the fact that the MFA process grants a user access to an account by verifying at least two of three types of factors related to the user:
- A piece of information that the user knows, such as a password or PIN code
- Something that the user has in his possession, e.g., a smartphone or an email account
- A characteristic of the user’s identity, such as a fingerprint, retina scan, or voice or facial recognition