Did you know that almost all data breaches include a social engineering element? Weak login credentials and processes are an open invitation to attackers, who routinely exploit such things simply because it’s far easier than hacking a highly secured database. Multifactor authentication offers a simple yet effective additional layer of security to protect against hacking attacks and similar threats.
How does MFA work?
The conventional way of protecting information systems is by using a username and a password combination. MFA adds one or more extra layers of security on top of this by asking users to verify their identities before gaining access to the system.
MFA typically combines two authentication factors, although systems which handle extremely sensitive data may use three or even more factors in total. If one of the verification methods is missing, then access to the asset, such as a computer or cloud application, will be denied.
Here’s an overview of the most common verification methods:
- Something you have, such as a key card
- Something you know, such as a password
- A personal characteristic, such as a fingerprint
- Your physical location
One common example of MFA we’re all familiar with is withdrawing money from an ATM using a bank card. The card is a physical object that only you have, while the PIN you enter is something that only you know.
Mobile devices (something you have) can also be used to implement MFA. When logging into a system remotely, a user might be requested to enter a one-time SMS code that’s sent to their smartphone. Alternatively, the user might need to verify the login attempt from a dedicated mobile app. This is especially common for popular cloud platforms.
Protection against weak passwords
While every business should implement and enforce a strong password policy, it isn’t always easy. Even the strongest passwords can be compromised by careless actions, for example, by writing them down on a sticky note, which they then leave lying around.
But weak passwords are particularly troublesome, since they can easily be cracked using brute force password attack software. This method tries every possible combination, but it becomes impractical for longer, more complex passwords to the point it would take billions of years to crack them. Nonetheless, adding an extra verification layer, while not negating the need for strong passwords, greatly increases protection.
Protection against phishing scams
Since hacking more complex passwords is close to impossible, most attackers use social engineering techniques instead to dupe their victims into giving away their login credentials. A common approach is masquerading as someone the victim knows. Another is setting up a malicious website and login page, which look like they belong to a legitimate organization that the victim actually has an account with.
But while it’s often easy for attackers to get their hands on things like usernames and passwords, it isn’t so easy for them to get through the additional verification methods of MFA. For example, the system might automatically block an attempted login from a suspicious location. Inputting login credentials also won’t work unless the user has a one-time security token, such as a code sent via SMS or email.
While MFA isn’t completely foolproof, it greatly enhances your security posture and prepares you for a multitude of common cyber-threats. It’s also a legal necessity for achieving regulatory compliance in many industries. And it’s neither difficult nor expensive to implement. Midwest Data Iowa offers MFA and other comprehensive cybersecurity services coupled with industry expertise to help you protect your business.