What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Security is more crucial than ever in today's digital environment. With so much of our personal and professional lives online, it's critical to have strong cyber defenses. Using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is one way to do this.

Passwords are becoming easier to get for hackers. As a result, MFA has grown in importance as a security measure. Instead of relying on a single password, multi-factor authentication verifies your identity using a variety of factors.

While MFA may add a step to the login process, keeping your data secure is worth the effort. However, what exactly is multi-factor authentication, and how does it work? Keep reading to find out.

Multi-factor authentication is a security method in which multiple pieces of evidence, or "factors," are required to verify a user's identity. This can involve something the user knows (like a password), something the user has (like a security token or key), and something the user is aware of (such as a fingerprint or other biometric identifier). Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for unauthorized users to access a system or account since it requires many factors. It is frequently used as an extra layer of security against fraud and other security risks.

What is Multi-factor Authentication?

MFA is a multi-tiered method for protecting your online accounts and their data. When you activate MFA in your online services (such as email), you must present a combination of two or more authenticators to the service for it to grant you access. Therefore, using MFA secures your account more than simply entering a login and password. 

According to Microsoft, MFA users are much less likely to be hacked. Why? Because even if a malicious cyber actor breaches one element (such as your password), they will be unable to fulfill the second authentication requirement, preventing them from accessing your accounts.

Whether you call it two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication, two-step authentication, MFA, or 2FA, you are utilizing a combination of something you have, something you know, or something you are to authenticate who you say you are online.

Your bank, social media network, school, and workplace all want to ensure that you are who you say you are and, more importantly, that unauthorized persons do not get access to your account and data.

How Does MFA Work?

MFA works by layering the login procedure. To verify their digital identity, the user must present at least two factors, which fall into three categories:

  • Something the user knows: This can be a password, a PIN, or personal information about the user (for example, their mother's maiden name).
  • Something the user has: This can be hardware like a smartphone or a computer, or it could be digital assets like a software token or a security key.
  • Something inherent to the user: Most frequently, this type of biometric verification involves using voice, iris, and fingerprints.

Two or more of these categories are used in multi-factor authentication.

Difference Between MFA vs. 2FA

It is critical to understand the distinction between two-factor and multi-factor authentication. MFA requires using two or more authentication factors to determine whether or not the user accessing the information is authorized. Organizations can use various combinations of authentication factors to meet their needs.

Two-factor authentication is a subset of MFA that employs only two authentication factors. Every multi-factor authentication is a two-factor authentication, but every two-factor authentication is not a multi-factor authentication. More security layers indicate fewer possibilities of hackers breaking in and hence improved data and information security.

What are the Benefits of an MFA?

Improves Security

By forcing users to submit numerous credentials before accessing accounts, hackers are prohibited from entering your network using stolen passwords, devices, or other particular pieces of information. According to a recent Ping Identity poll, security and IT experts believe that multi-factor authentication is the most effective security measure for securing on-premises and public cloud data.

Flexible Security Solution

Each authentication factor provides various possibilities, allowing organizations to tailor the user experience to their requirements. For example, consumers may have access to fingerprint scanners on mobile phones but not retinal or voice recognition scanners. In addition, some use cases may require only two authentication factors, while others may need all three.

Lowers The Risk of Compromised Passwords

Passwords are the most frequent type of authentication, yet they are also the least secure. Passwords may be reused or shared, but they may also be stolen or guessed, exposing account holders and system administrators. According to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 61 percent of breaches in 2020 were carried out with unauthorized credentials.

Single Sign-On is supported (SSO)

MFA may be integrated with single sign-on and incorporated into apps. As a result, users no longer have to generate several unique passwords when signing in or take the dangerous step of reusing the same password for different apps. In conjunction with SSO, MFA eliminates friction while authenticating the user's identity, saving time and increasing productivity.

Which Industries Can Benefit From MFA?

Multi-factor authentication may be used in any organization where security is an issue. This includes companies in the following industries:

In these industries, using MFA secures user accounts and prevents fraud. When performing transactions or seeking access, MFA guarantees that users are who they say they are.

For example, in the insurance industry, MFA may be used to authenticate the identity of policyholders when they log into their accounts to file a claim. In finance, MFA can authenticate a customer's identification when they log into their bank account or make an online transaction.

How Does MFA Help in Fraud Prevention?

Multi-factor authentication is particularly beneficial for preventing account takeover fraud. Account takeover (ATO) fraud occurs when a bad actor uses stolen credentials to gain access to a customer's account for ill purposes.

The best method to safeguard your company against ATO fraud is to increase account access security with multi-factor authentication. In addition, a fraud prevention system that employs machine learning and automation will also assist in detecting fraud.

Because MFA provides more than one authentication layer to the login process, the complexity makes it more difficult for a fraudster to gain access to an account. To access an account, a bad actor would want the user's login credentials and their device or fingerprint.

When faced with multi-factor authentication, a fraudster is likelier to move on to a less difficult target. In addition, multi-factor authentication identifies suspicious activities such as credential stuffing and brute-force attacks.

MFA also protects accounts from unauthorized account activity. For example, fraudsters may try to access accounts and modify the delivery or billing address, payment card information, or login credentials.

These fraudulent changes are challenging to identify since they might appear to be normal activities of the account user. However, changes to login credentials might result in a fraudster taking over an account and shutting off a trustworthy customer.

The essential thing most businesses can do to prevent cybersecurity issues and fraud is to implement multi-factor authentication. Governments are taking cybersecurity more seriously since agencies and infrastructure are increasingly being attacked, even in businesses that do not currently require MFA for regulatory compliance. Investing in an MFA solution is an efficient way to protect your data and resources from unauthorized access.

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