By: Nihad Hassan
November 6, 2020
Five Reasons To Turn On Multi-Factor Authentication
By: Nihad Hassan
November 6, 2020
Digital authentication is the process of identifying the identity of a user or a device against a computer system (e.g., a network, device, or application) to gain access to protected resources (data and sensitive applications). Digital authentication mechanisms are considered the backbone of information security in today’s digital age.
In IT systems, a username and password remain the most used factor to authenticate users against the authentication mechanism. Nevertheless, computing technology continues to evolve rapidly, and so is the type of cyber-attacks. This forces organizations to invent more advanced authentication methods to increase IT systems' protection and prevent malicious actors from gaining unauthorized access to sensitive resources.
When using the password authentication method only, a user –or device- has a username -which is not secret- combined with a secret password. The user must supply the correct password along with their username to gain access to protected resources. This method suffers from many weaknesses, such as having to remember a password for each account. Besides, lazy users may use the same password for multiple accounts and select easy-to-guess passwords that make their accounts vulnerable to brute-force attacks.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) increases the strength of username/password authentication by adding a new factor to the authentication process. This factor can be a text message (SMS) sent to your mobile phone containing a secret code or the use of software or hardware token that generates a secret code after the user supplies their username and password to the authentication system.
As society becomes more digitized, many sensitive services become delivered online, such as medical services and online banking. Such systems need a high-security level to protect customer accounts and comply with data protection regulations. These security concerns led to the development of Multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) (see Figure 1) is a digital authentication method. A user needs to supply two or more authentication factors - aside from entering a password- to the authentication mechanism to access sensitive data and applications.
There are different authentication factors employed in the digital authentication systems; the following list the most used types:
- Something you know: Such as your password.
- Something you have: Software or hardware tokens.
- Something you are: A user biometric, such as fingerprints and voice/face recognition.
Individuals and businesses can gain various advantages when adopting MFA. This section mentions them and talks a little bit about each one.
Top Reasons to turn on Multi-Factor Authentication
The Darknet is full of stolen credentials (usernames and passwords). No one can estimate the number of leaked account credentials. Still, many studies predict billions of hacked accounts are ready for sale in the Darknet marketplace, and many of them are already available for free on both the dark and surface web (see Figure 2).
If MFA was utilized, the use of stolen credentials could be mitigated. Even if attackers have captured your username and password, there is very little chance of intercepting the second authentication factor in a usable way.
Protect User identity
The average person has 70-80 passwords, according to the [research](https://www.newswire.com/news/new-research-most-people-have-70-80-passwords-21103705#:~:text=LONDON%2C%20February%2027%2C%202020%20(,by%20the%20password%20manager%20NordPass) by the password manager NordPass. On the other hand, a large percentage of users use the same password in more than one account. Protecting a user account using password-only authentication can lead to identity theft, which, in return, can bring many additional cyberattacks against the user.
Cyberattacks are increasing at an explosive rate; according to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime damage is projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021. Using MFA authentication, organizations can effectively increase their security against cyberattacks by reducing the risks of compromised passwords.
MFA suits the current trend in changing workspace
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the traditional workforce environment by forcing a large number of employees to work remotely from home. This new environment requires a robust authentication mechanism to provide access to corporate sensitive data and applications across a hostile environment like the internet.
MFA increases security without sacrificing user experience
Passwords are difficult to remember, especially when they are complicated. IT departments require employees to use complex passwords to prevent brute-force attacks. However, such policies can have negative effects; for example, many employees stick to using the same password on multiple accounts, which lowers security and increases the chance of compromising multiple accounts by just knowing one account's password. Adopting MFA in the corporate world reduces data breach risk without requiring users to follow new policies or remember complex passwords.
Comply with data security standards
Many organizations have adopted MFA to comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. Failing to protect customer’s data -as a result of a data breach- can have catastrophic consequences on the affected organization. Besides, some compliance standards require users to utilize multi-factor authentication when protecting sensitive information such as financial and personally identifiable information (PII).
Multi-factor authentication has become an essential element in any cybersecurity defense plan. To protect your data and online accounts from the ever-growing cyberattacks, utilizing MFA becomes a must to stop current and future cyberattacks.