Why You Need to Commit to Multifactor Authentication

Published February 17, 2022 | Categories: BITS Team , Computer Related , IT Services , Cyber Security

It's February and 'tis the season for Valentine's-related everything. We won't be dishing out any relationship advice this year (this is an IT blog after all), but we do whole-heartedly recommend that you commit to multifactor authentication (MFA). It doesn't matter if your employees are working remotely across the country or if they've been in-office every day for the past 10 years. Multifactor authentication is now a business necessity that goes a long way to secure your infrastructure and financial information.

Captchas: An Intro to Multifactor Authentication

eric-krull-Ejcuhcdfwrs-unsplash.jpgYou've been there: you click a button on a website and are prompted to prove that you are not a robot.

Assuming that you are, in fact, human, these tests are pretty easy to pass. You decode a gibberish word. Or look at a grid of blurry images to identify all the streetlights. Or boats. Or bicycles. Or whatever. You get it.

These tests are captchas, security checkpoints to confirm that you are not an automated system, which are often phishing schemes or other cyber threats.

Captchas are in fact a form of multifactor authentication (MFA), a security measure that verifies a user as legitimate with two or more tests. A captcha is generally the 2nd security check that comes after the user inputs their password, token, or code.

What sets MFA apart from other measures is that it's concentrated on the quality of the security check, not the quantity. It’s designed to verify different types of information, not just check multiple times.

Today we’re going to dive a bit deeper into MFA and explore exactly why it's a must-have for your business.

Why is Multifactor Authentication So Great?

phishing of username and passwordEven with the most secure password imaginable, experienced cyber criminals can still compromise your username and password with relative ease. While keeping different, unique passwords for each of your online accounts is a great precaution, it’s simply not enough these days. Bad actors often utilize automated password-decoding tools and other sophisticated hacking methods so it’s only a matter of time before the correct sequence of letters and numbers is discovered. And once that happens, all of your company data is essentially on the table for them to exploit.

With MFA, you're no longer dependent on just a password to stay safe. And though it can drastically strengthen your cyber security, MFA is not a complicated system to implement. In fact, last year Beacon IT Services (BITS) transitioned our entire company to MFA in just a few days!

How Does Multifactor Authentication Work?

Multifactor authentication does exactly what the name says: it authenticates multiple factors! Think of it like a TSA checkpoint at the airport. First, the agent looks at your ticket to let you pass - that's one factor. Then they make sure your photo ID is representative of you and confirm that your name is the same on your ticket and ID. That's multiple factors.

In the IT world, it’s the exact same concept. MFA verifies multiple pieces of info to make sure that you’re you, and you’re accessing something you're permitted to access.

There are three types of factors most MFA systems check for: Knowledge, Possession, and Inherence. Typically the most common type of MFA arrangement is a Knowledge Factor paired with one of the other two.

  • person placing usb security fob into laptopKnowledge Factors are something you know. Passwords, personal security questions, four-digit pins: these are the typical pieces of information you need to provide when you log in or access a site online.
  • Possession Factors are something you have. This type of authentication factor might be a physical object like a key fob or something non-physical like a digital certificate or one-time token. Most often, this factor utilizes your phone: When you receive a text message or phone call with a code to confirm access, that’s something only you have. Hence, a possession factor!
  • Inherence Factors are something you are. In this case, we’re talking about the inherent human biology that proves you are who you say you are. These are the situations in which “proving you’re not a robot” goes to the extreme. Inherence factors include fingerprint, facial, and retina scans; voice verification; and digital signature confirmation. Typically, this factor is only used in extreme situations and won't apply to most businesses (not yet!).

Bottom Line: Every Business Needs Multifactor Authentication

You’ve likely been utilizing MFA methods in both your professional and personal lifestyles already. Many popular online retailers utilize one-time pins sent directly to your mobile device with every transaction. And the classic captcha is still very much in rotation on major sites. We don’t anticipate MFA being replaced anytime soon and expect most companies to adopt some form of MFA in the coming years.

So if your business has yet to implement a multifactor authentication system for employees, what are you waiting for? To get started, give BITS a call. We’ll get your MFA process set up in no time! With every additional level of security you implement, you'll have more peace of mind for you and your business.