One of the most severe flaws of standard user ID and password login systems is the ease with which they may be hacked and lead to businesses possibly losing data and millions of dollars. As if that is not enough, brute-force assaults also pose a severe threat alongside this, where malicious actors can use automated password cracking programs (usually self-built) to guess multiple username and password combinations until the right one clicks. 

While the response to that by professional IT teams was to lock the account after a specific number of failed login tries which was a success and increased business security, it was short-lived. Hackers began to develop new and much more sophisticated means of beating the obstacles set by professional IT teams and gaining access to the system. This birthed the use of the process “multifactor authentication.” 

While many IT teams decided to incorporate this new system alongside user login and password systems, others abandoned the old ones in favor of the new ones. However, despite its effectiveness, there has been low adoption. Alex Weinert, the director responsible for identity security at Microsoft reports that just 11% of Microsoft users implemented it. Read on to know why you should adopt it. 

Delving Into the Idea of MFA Authentication

An authentication factor is a way to verify one’s identity over the internet. The idea is that every added factor or component for MFA is meant to strengthen the assurance that an entity requesting access to a system is who they claim to be. Hence, employing more than one means of authentication might make the task of a malicious actor gaining access to your device or data more complex. The more factors, the more difficult it will be to hack. 

There are four commonly used categories for multifactor authentication, and they are:

  • Something you know, or the knowledge factor; 
  • Something you have, or the possession factor; 
  • Something you are, or the inherence factor;
  • Somewhere you are, or the location factor (a less popular category).

MFA functions by combining two or more of these factors from different categories, hence the name “multifactor.” 

MFA Categories

Every MFA category is unique and essential in securing your device and personal information.

Knowledge Factor 

Typically, knowledge-based authentication entails the user answering a personal security question of a personal nature. Examples of factors in this category are passwords and one-time passwords (OTPs). 

For example, to gain access to a system, you will have to provide private information, such as your mother’s maiden name or the address of a house you have previously lived in. 

Possession Factor

To gain access to a system, users must have an object at hand that is capable of facilitating approval, such as a token, phone subscriber identity module (SIM) card, or a key fob. A more common use is a smartphone that has a functioning OTP app. This is called mobile authentication.

How it works: At the specific time of login, the user can request a code generated by the system, and it is sent to the user’s device, where they can receive it and then input it within a short amount of time. 

Inherence Factor

For this category, the biological traits of users are used to approve logins. In other words, this category entails the use of biometric verifying methods. Examples are:

  • Facial recognition tech
  • Retina scanners
  • Fingerprint scanners
  • Palm scanners
  • Voice authentication systems
  • Digital signature scanners 

Due to what they do, biometric systems typically consist of a reader, the software, and the database. The reader scans the input and checks it against the stored data in the database. All of these are made possible by the software installed on the system. 

Many mobile phones now come with fingerprint scanners and facial recognition tech, and police use fingerprint scanners during investigations. This helps in verifying the user’s identity.

Location Factor

This is not a popular category employed for MFA, but it has its uses. This entails checking a person’s location within a specific timeframe to determine if they could have been present in both places. For example, it might be suspicious if one used the same credit card in Washington D.C. and Singapore within an hour. Of course, this is possible, but the account might be locked due to fraud until the user can prove that they were in both places at those times. 

What Is Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication?

Adaptive multifactor authentication determines the authentication factors to use based on business guidelines and information obtained from the user. Adaptive authentication is majorly used by businesses to reconcile security needs with user experience.

Adaptive authentication systems can enhance or decrease user authentication stages uniquely by using contextual user factors and information such as:

  • Day and hour of the login attempt 
  • User role
  • Number of unsuccessful login attempts 
  • Operating system 
  • User’s geographic location 
  • The device used for login 

Best Practices for Multi-Factor Authentication 

Every company wants to safeguard its digital resources. As a result, there needs to be enforced restricted access across the business alongside cybersecurity awareness for the staff. MFA is an excellent addition to boost security and restricts access. Below are some best practices for MFA use:

Create and define user roles

By classifying users into roles, you can control access restrictions with ease. This is a good example of giving admin users more functions and more reach in the system over basic users. 

Create and enforce strict password policies

While multifactor authentication is a good choice, you can always improve. One way to get better is to have strict regulations on passwords. Having password creation guidelines such as a mix of upper and lowercase letters, digits, and special characters is the best practice for MFA authentication.

Looking to Strengthen Your Business’ Security Architecture?

ECN IT Solutions is a Tucson-based company offering several kinds of IT services throughout the United States. We offer 24/7 Managed IT services and help you strengthen your business’s cybersecurity levels with MFA security. Contact us today to get a head start.