Multi-factor Authentication: All You Need to Know About It

Posted on Categories Cybersecurity

The world has become a global digital village, and there’s a need to strengthen data security. While various methods exist for verification, multi-factor authentication remains the surest. It certifies a user’s identity via confirmation of multiple factors. By this, it becomes almost impossible for cybercriminals to penetrate.

What is Multi-factor Authentication?

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) is an authentication method that strengthens account security. It requires users to provide two verification factors to access a resource. The factors always include things like a password and username.

MFA protects systems against social engineering, phishing, or any cyber attack. Rather than using only a username and password, it requires additional verification. Subsequently, there is a decrease in such potential attacks.

It is a standard option for access management and security. As a result, organizations rely on it to eliminate security breaches. To achieve this goal, they design their customized MFA systems.

Why use MFA?

The ultimate goal for the use of MFA is to create a defense line between users and hackers. It prevents unauthorized personalities from gaining access to personal information. Even if they get privy to your password details, MFA denies them the whole entrance.

The use of authentication factors such as fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition, and more makes it impossible. Nevertheless, users ought to take advantage of MFA whenever it is made available. The best places to adopt factor authentication include health records, financial accounts, and primary email accounts.

How it Works

Multi-factor authentication works by requesting additional verification information. There’s usually the completion of an MFA process that precedes specific actions. When users need to make a transaction or log in to an account, it becomes expedient.

The process entails providing two or more credential categories such as passwords, personal data, etc. It is a way of proving their identity. The goal is to create a multilayered system of defense against unauthorized entities. For example, one everyday MFA users encounter a one-time password (OTP). It comprises 4 to 8 digit codes sent via emails, SMS, or a mobile app. The OTP code gets generated periodically or on request based on a seed value assigned to first-time users.

MFA systems verification process becomes possible when users provide a combination of authentication factors. However, aside from OTP, other methods exist.

Types of Multi-factor Authentication

Adaptive Authentication (Risk-based Authentication)

Adaptive authentication works by analyzing additional factors by considering behavior or context. Next, it uses these values to allocate some level of risks associated with login attempts.

Specific questions come up that help in the process. The risk level gets calculated based on the answers provided. It further determines the need for an additional authentication factor or a login.

It uses artificial intelligence (AI) and a global positioning system to perform this effectively. The goal is to create an MFA system that assesses that risk and provides the access required. It is a procedure that helps in recognizing potential security breaches. However, the information provided helps verify the user’s location and device to authenticate identity.

Identity and Biometrics

Some Multi-factor authentication asks for verification of identity through the personal inherence factors. They require biometric data that relate to physical identity. These factors include digital signature, facial recognition scan, fingerprint scans, voice recognition, etc. The MFA systems integrate biometrics scanning tools, databases, and software to achieve this.

Biometrics provides a very reliable and independent authentication factor. It also offers strong security over knowledge authentication. For this reason, it eliminates vulnerability to social engineering and phishing attacks. In addition, it helps in fighting fraud.

Information-based Authentication

As the name suggests, MFA in this category makes users provide information for identity verification. The factor takes the form of passwords, personal information numbers (PIN), or questions. A one-time password (OTPs) also works here.

The downside to this factor is that information gets stolen via research, social engineering, and phishing.

Physical Asset

This form of authentication requires users to provide physical proof of their identities. Therefore, it often demands items in its possessions such as access badges, security tokens, and small hardware items.

The advantage is that it puts the power in your hand to determine those with access to your files.

Location-Based MFA 

It uses a user’s IP address or Geolocation to secure its credential. However, access denial becomes possible when the location opposes the specified list. To resolve this issue, an additional form of authentication becomes necessary.

In summary, all types of factors fall under one of these main authentication elements.

  • Inherence (Something you have) covers behavioral analysis, biometrics, facial recognition, iris scanning, voice, etc.
  • Possession (Something you own) – It operates utilizing OTPs generated via text, email, or phone. In other words, it requires a device in your possession to get it. The Possession element also covers access badges, fob keys, smart cards, software tokens, USB devices, etc.
  • Knowledge (Something you know) focuses on answers to personal security questions and passwords. The idea is to use something you alone know. Knowledge is the most common of the three elements.

Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication

  1. MFA provides a layer of protection for users. It eradicates the effect of compromised data.
  2. It allows for enterprise mobility, particularly for those undergoing digital transformation.
  3. It provides flexible, on-demand access of value to organizations to secure data.
  4. The combination of two or three factors makes it difficult for intruders to access a system.
  5. It follows regulatory policies and complies with them. For this reason, it remains virtually non-intrusive.
  6. It is non-invasive by nature, thus making implementation easy.
  7. It complies with single sign-on solutions. Users discover there’s no need for multiple complex passwords for various applications.
  8. It enhances security and saves time.
  9. It is an effective cyber security solution as it comes with strict measures. Examples include TOTP and Google Authenticator.
  10. It increases customers’ trust in any organization.

Conclusion

Besides the multi-factor authentication for individuals and businesses, a new form of MFA exists. It puts cloud technology into focus.

Cloud MFA offers protection to applications and data with no administrative or hardware costs.

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