Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) can enhance the security of sensitive data or systems in a business environment by making it much more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access. As an example, if a user’s password is compromised, an attacker would still be unable to access the system without gaining access to the user’s security token or fingerprint. Learn what MFA is, how to implement it, and how it can assist businesses in protecting data, meeting industry regulations, and more.
What is multi-factor authentication?
A multi-factor authentication system entails the requirement that users provide two or more forms of identification in order to access a system or application. Authentication can be achieved through something the user knows (such as a password or authentication link), something the user has possession of (such as a security token or smartphone), or something the user is (such as fingerprint or facial recognition).
SMS text messaging and email are two methods of delivering one-time passcodes (OTP) to users. However, if someone has access to the device or email account, the message and code can be intercepted and compromised. While many businesses, websites, and applications rely on SMS one-time passcodes and email confirmation links and/or codes, many have started moving to use a soft token system or a hardware token generator for better security. Many companies today utilize software token applications such as Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator, and Duo.
How does multi-factor authentication help?
Multi-factor authentication can provide protection against social engineering attacks (sometimes known as phishing), in which attackers attempt to trick users into divulging their passwords or other sensitive information. Using multi-factor authentication, even if an attacker successfully obtains a user’s password, they are still unable to gain access to the system without obtaining the second form of authentication.
It is also relevant to note that multi-factor authentication can assist in ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements within a business environment. Many industries have strict security regulations that must be met in order to protect customer data and other sensitive information. By providing an additional layer of security beyond traditional username and password authentication, multi-factor authentication can assist businesses in ensuring compliance with these regulations.
4 Common Implementations of Multi-Factor Authentication
Dark Blue Technologies leverages MFA implementations for clients to better protect business accounts and employees. Four common methods used across businesses include:
- Security tokens: These are small hardware devices that generate one-time passwords (OTPs) for authentication. The devices can be connected to a computer or mobile device via USB or can be used wirelessly through Bluetooth to provide authentication.
- Mobile authentication apps: Often the most popular, there are a number of mobile apps available that can be used to generate OTPs or push notifications for authentication. These apps can be installed on a user’s smartphone or tablet and often provide either OTPs or act as a security token. A few of these applications include Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator, and Duo.
- Biometric devices: These include fingerprint scanners, facial recognition cameras, and iris scanners that can be used to authenticate a user on the basis of their physical characteristics.
- Smart cards: Similar to security tokens, smart cards can store digital identities and can be used to authenticate a user. They are usually inserted into a card reader or can be used wirelessly through an NFC touchpoint.
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