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Why Does Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Matter?

Why Does Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Matter?

If you’re unfamiliar with multi-factor authentication (MFA), sometimes known as two-factor authentication (2FA), it is an information security technique that requires users to provide at least one factor in addition to a standard password to prove their identities. MFA is important because cybercrime has spiked in recent years, and criminal hackers continue to target smaller businesses at a staggering clip.

Should your organization find itself the victim of a sophisticated attack, nefarious threat actors could potentially assume control of your sensitive financial records, health care data, proprietary secrets, and more. Multi-factor authentication, however, has proven to be an effective tool in combating cybercrime because the added security layer makes unauthorized access to secure information substantially more difficult.

Once a cybercriminal realizes you’re using multi-factor authentication, it makes your business that much less enticing to bad actors, and you’re far less likely to fall into their sights as the latest easy prey. As implied by the name, MFA asks for at least two factors to establish the identity of an authorized systems user.

In most cases, the primary factor will be a user ID and password that’s either generated by the user independently or issued by a company administrator. Secondary authentication factors frequently include elements such as keycards, mobile phones, or a USB that can confirm the login attempt is being initiated by an authorized user.

Companies are increasingly electing to deploy biometric data like digital fingerprints, iris scans, hand scans, or facial recognition as means of verifying the identity of a systems user. While some have raised privacy concerns regarding the biometric authentication strategy, the ultimate objective is to secure private business information, particularly those data that could lead to a significant financial loss for consumers and the company alike in the event of a breach.

Why aren’t traditional user names and passwords secure?

While most of us have grown accustomed to using some obscure combination of letters and numbers that form a username and password to gain access to email accounts, employment networks, and financial service providers, even the strongest usernames and passwords don’t provide the same security levels as they once did.

Even if you’re changing password details frequently, it’s simply not enough to ward off today’s sophisticated attacks. You’re trusty Google username and password, for instance, if breached, can give criminal threat actors access to a plethora of private information, including personal details stored across multiple applications and platforms.

In 2017, representatives from the company announced that nearly a quarter of a million user names and passwords were being stolen every week. This figure is potentially higher today and is cause for concern, given that one breach almost always leads to another. Under the right and ostensibly misfortunate chain of events, you could face a significant financial loss after an attacker executes a relatively simple password hack on just one of your accounts.

In fact, most criminal hackers aren’t initially focused on accessing financial details. This is the reason why, over the last decade, the healthcare sector has become a major target for threat actors. Once criminals gain access to your health records, they alter them to route fraudulent billing statements to a nonexistent company while accessing personal details that could be used or sold for the purposes of committing identity theft.

As companies become increasingly aware of the risks associated with poor digital hygiene and password insecurity, they’ve started to adopt MFA in an attempt to mitigate security issues. Using more than one authenticating factor for systems access is one of the most effective strategies for preventing a costly breach before it ever starts.

How does the additional layer of authentication work?

Most MFA systems in use today will still employ conventional usernames and passwords as their primary authentication factor. For added security, another authentication layer is simply added on top of the traditional verification technique to prevent unauthorized access to the account.

Once you set up MFA, the authorized user will have to register a secondary authentication element such as a personal mobile phone number or key fob that the system will use as an added layer of security. After registration, when the user logs into the account with the registered username and password, the system will then trigger the secondary authentication factor that requires access to the additional security item.

The vast majority of MFA systems utilize personal cell phones to deliver alphanumerical verification codes via text message before they authorize system access. To complete the process, users must enter the correct verification code or press a button on an electronically pinged fob to gain entry to the network or account.

Depending on the security requirements, some systems may require MFA at every login attempt, while others have the ability to remember devices, allowing you to avoid this step until prompted at some future point. Should you log on using an unrecognized device in an unusual location, you will likely need access to the secondary layer of authentication before you can proceed.

Multi-factor authentication isn’t a particularly novel concept, but it is highly effective at preventing costly breaches of sensitive business and consumer information. Companies that take the relatively simple steps to implement MFA can drastically improve their security posture.

Does multi-factor authentication help with compliance?

Both risk reduction and compliance are critical in today’s sophisticated threat environment, which is why businesses of all sizes are adopting MFA security techniques in such increasing numbers.

Remote officing has also played a significant role in the development of advanced adaptive MFA solutions. These additional controls go a long way in safeguarding your critical business data and protecting your company’s hard-earned brand reputation.

Is adaptive multi-factor authentication right for your organization?

Company digital security is nothing to stall on, and you shouldn’t wait. To learn more about how PCH Technologies has been helping businesses like yours enhance their security with adaptive MFA solutions, reach out to the team of cybersecurity experts now by booking a complimentary discovery call online or dial us now at (856) 754-7500.