What is Multi-factor Authentication?
Multi-Factor Authentication or MFA is a technological method that secures user accounts through several layers of security. It works by authenticating a user’s identity through more than one independent category of credentials. An evolved form of the traditional two-factor authentication method that relies on a two-layer authentication method, MFA efficiently reduces the risk of forced logins.
MFA relies on multiple authentication methods and creates an added layer of security against hack attacks and data breaches. Such as, let’s suppose you have MFA activated in your Gmail account login. So once you enter the password, the MFA will require you to respond to a push notification on your phone or enter a specific code received through SMS to allow access within the account.
Therefore, with MFA, if a perpetrator manages to circumvent the first or second authentication method, the third layer would remain to ensure protection. Moreover, most of these authentication modes are challenging for any criminal to access since they are among personal items such as biometric data, enabling robust security.
What are the benefits of Multi-factor Authentication?
Multi-factor authentication plays a vital role in implementing information security. It is a practical resource against data breaches and cyber-attacks. Apart from that, Multi-factor authentication comes with numerous other benefits such as:
- It is easy to implement.
- It protects consumer identity.
- It helps businesses meet regulatory compliance.
- It complies well with Single Sign-On (SSO) Solutions
- It is an effective solution to implementing cybersecurity.
- It ensures remote work stays secure.
- It helps simplify cloud-based data sharing and storing.
Therefore, Multi-factor authentication can be a one-time solution to many problems. Apart from imposing data security, it also helps maintain brand image and reputation.
How to Implement Multi-factor Authentication?
There are various ways that you can implement MFA, such as:
One-Time Password (OTP)
This method relies on generating a one-time password at the user’s login attempt through a shared secret key through a cryptographic function such as SHA-256.
The password expires within a specific time frame and comes through a particular authentication app, email, or SMS. The user must put in that code at a designated space for verification, leading to a successful login.
The push notification method relies on the use of a trusted device, such as a cellphone. This push notification connects with the service account the user is logging into, such as the Microsoft authenticator app for outlook accounts. Once the user attempts to log in to the account, a push notification arrives at the user’s device.
The push notification is a login request containing information such as application name, OS and the browser of the request, location, and the date of the login request. The user has to accept the request, which results in a successful login.
Biometric authentication involves authentication that relies on the user’s physical makeup for authentication. It’s usually a fingerprint, iris scan, or even a face scan. Biometric authentication is by far taken as the most reliable form of security.
MFA works in a two or three-tier system and is activated once a user puts in their password. If the password is correct, the user gets directed towards a biometric authentication method requiring a fingerprint or iris scan. The user gets access if the biometric authentication is accurate. Whatsapp uses biometric authentication if you try to use WhatsApp web on your desktop.
How Effective is Multi-factor Authentication?
Multi-factor authentication is a fairly reliable form of ensuring data security. It protects from all kinds of attacks involving a threat actor obtaining a user’s credentials through a diverse set of techniques.
This protection covers many cyber-attacks, including phishing, spear phishing, automated credential stuffing, and guessing attacks. Multi-factor authentication can protect information from 96% of phishing attacks and 76% of target-based attacks.
Despite increased digitization, MFA is also proven effective against bot attacks, primarily as bots cannot intercept authentication codes generated by an application or enable biometric authentication. Therefore, as of now, MFA is one of the most secure and reliable solutions to obtaining data security and privacy.
Multi-factor Authentication Disadvantages
Generally, MFA protects people and organizations from a reasonable number of cyber attacks. However, the cyber threat landscape evolves constantly, and several cyber attacks can render one form of security weak, so cybersecurity demands a multi-pronged approach. The same scenario stands with MFA, and there are almost a handful of cyber-attacks that can mitigate MFA, such as:
The attack involves tricking the user and directing them to a malicious proxy website instead of the actual one. The proxy website seems legitimate and proxies everything the victim does on the actual website. Similarly, everything that it does happens through the proxy website leaving the user susceptible to information leaks.
A solution to this issue is being aware of possible attacks and recognizing redirects to malicious websites and links.
While MFA is reliable against hack attacks, it can’t ensure protection if the user device is infected by spyware. With a malware infection, the hacker can mimic user activity, including piggybacking on logins, stealing session cookies, or issuing new transactions and permissions. It is more of a vulnerability from the user end, impacting MFA security.
Some ordinary Spywares include banking trojans, and a solution against them is to protect your device through a good antivirus program.
Illegitimate Authentication Requests
This phishing attack involves tricking a user into visiting a legitimate-looking website that generates a user’s MFA. The website fakes the MFA routine by asking users to input their MFA logins and making them feel like the MFA login is successfully accepted.
However, users can get past such illegitimate authentication requests by learning phishing sites and recognizing phishing attacks.
Vulnerability in the MFA Method
Since MFA methods are software-based, they are bound to have bugs or vulnerabilities that criminals can exploit. It is also possible that the cyberattacks have come up with new attack vectors that can bypass the user’s choice of MFA.
It is best to use upgraded services for implementing MFA, such as an authenticator app that readily fixes its bugs. It is also wise to ensure that the first line of defense is the strongest and the most difficult to get by secure accounts through solid passwords that are hard to crack.
A good password is hard to guess, is not personalized, is easy to remember, and contains a mixture of numbers, words, and symbols.
Multi-factor authentication is a legitimate and secure way of ensuring data protection and privacy. A combination of solid passwords and Multi-factor authentication can prove to be a robust method of implementing data security. Therefore, by implementing Multi-factor authentication, you can take a significant step to secure your organization.
At Right-Hand, we believe that MFA implementation requires a cyber-aware workforce through training and compreehensive policies. When employees master the password game and understand the need for a second layer of protection, an organization mitigates most of the threats.
If you’re interested in knowing how we combine compliance and training to influence behavior and create good cyber habits, click on the button below to request your demo.