Creating passwords needs to be a challenge, not for you to remember but for others to guess. Yet, the digital world is changing. A single sign-on password is pretty easy for unsavory characters to hack. Statistics indicate in 2021, there were 50% more cyberattacks per week aimed at companies compared to 2020. Furthermore, cybercrime costs are expected to reach a whopping $10.5 trillion by 2025.
Cybercriminals are getting smarter and utilizing technology to their advantage. You need professionals by your side to empower you to secure and protect your data and your technology assets, along with the ability to maintain the proper compliance standards.
You need to make sure your business is secure to reduce your company’s vulnerability to a cyberattack.
Because most passwords are relatively easy for threat actors to breach, businesses should require more than this single level of authentication when logging into systems, databases, networks, VPNs, the cloud, and any online accounts. One of the things small business owners may be confused about is the difference between multi-factor authentication and two-factor authentication. The differences are quite simple.
Two-factor Authentication (2FA)
Employing 2FA means at least two pieces of information are required to verify a user’s identity. This is an additional layer of security on top of a password. A common type of 2FA is hard tokens, which continuously generate new codes. Another is voice calls or text messages (SMS) where a code or one-time password (OTP) is sent to a mobile device before login is authorized. You have likely seen any combination of these used by your bank, doctor’s office, or other entity with which you conduct business.
Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
Multi-factor authentication kicks the authentication verification process up a level by requiring two or more methods of verification from a user. The MFA factors typically come from different categories. An example of this would be to input a username and password, then a code generated like a 2FA process. If the business fully utilizes MFA, it would add a biometric component before access is granted.
A second factor is more secure than simply using a password. Typical MFA as a form of authentication method can be sorted into three categories: possession, knowledge, and biometrics or inherence. The following MFA methods are common approaches in these three categories that organizations of all sizes commonly take to control access management and keep the bad guys out.
Possession authentication methods are much like they sound—an individual has a specific item in their possession to confirm their identity and authorization to access digital or physical assets which serve as security keys. These may be a smartphone, key fob, ID card, smartcard, hard tokens, and soft tokens. This possession factor ups a company’s security and is a vast improvement over a simple password or other keyed entry.
Passwords are the most common knowledge factor. Unfortunately, these days, passwords are not enough to keep assets secure. Companies looking to add safeguard components often add knowledge factors to make it harder for bad actors to access.
- Security Questions
Unfortunately, these knowledge factors are often compromised. Using two or more is better than a simple password, but threat actors are commonly able to phish, steal, or buy knowledge factors. Also, users often share this information openly on social media sites, making it easy for hackers to guess the correct information.
Biometrics, also referred to as inherence factors, are the unique physical traits each human possesses. They are used in conjunction with both knowledge and possession factors.
- Voice recognition
- Facial recognition
- Retina scanning
- Iris scanning
- Palm patterns
- Keystrokes dynamics
- Handwritten signatures
Some biometrics are more secure than others but may be cost-prohibitive. Working with professionals can help companies identify the best methods to help them improve their security posture.
Modern businesses find MFA offers several advantages to help them protect their assets. No system is 100% safe from cyberattacks, but by integrating MFA elements, your company adds another layer of defense, enjoying the following benefits.
Implementing MFA into your cybersecurity plan, without a doubt, increases your security, helping to protect the company from phishing attacks and other exploits. Not only that, but it also helps organizations meet regulatory requirements. A great example of this is HIPAA healthcare laws.
Depending on the type of business, companies must adhere to specific criteria to safeguard data, and technology can be leveraged to help increase security, effectively helping with compliance. MFA can be a part of that.
Malware is an ongoing problem, and threat actors who manage to infiltrate systems can plant malware or trick users into installing it themselves. MFA offers stronger control over who can access databases and files. Passwords are often easily duplicated, guessed, or poorly designed in the first place. MFA empowers organizations to help them establish who does and does not have access to sensitive data. Businesses can also utilize “need to know” or “least privilege” access in conjunction with MFA strategies.
Reduces Password Risks
According to statistics, more than 65% of accounts use duplicated passwords. This means that if a hacker successfully compromises one password, he or she can access multiple accounts since the password does not change. This is a substantial risk companies take every day.
While convenient for users, these single sign-on (SSO) solutions are risky for organizations. A benefit is that MFA is completely compatible with SSO, making it a viable solution without making employees’ lives harder.
Simply put, enterprises utilizing MFA are not just telling — they are showing — the world they take cyber risks and threats seriously. To combat these threats, they demonstrate a willingness to increase the difficulty for anyone to gain access. The end result is more favorable public perception and a strengthened reputation with clients, customers, and any other stakeholders.
Adapts to Changing Workplace
Security breaches are generally not a matter of “if”, but “when” a breach will occur. Today’s businesses need to implement different forms of access control to protect themselves from threat actors. Furthermore, as more employees work remotely or via mobile phone, companies must integrate solutions to ensure their employees working outside of their physical control will not inadvertently cause a breach. Adaptive MFA helps solve this problem.
MFA boosts the security factor by requiring users to access company systems from airports, coffee shops, or other off-site locations. It helps establish who they say they are and, when combined with other protective factors, such as VPNs, goes a long way towards improving security and protecting data.
In a 2019 report, Microsoft claimed MFAs can prevent more than 99% of compromised attacks. Google “echoes” the advice to utilize MFAs to add another layer of protection. This suggests MFA is a robust barrier against unauthorized access and cyberattacks. MFA, combined with additional security solutions, can significantly boost your company’s security posture.
Utilizing MFA does come with some disadvantages. However, the benefits of MFA far outweigh its drawbacks. Your business depends upon it. Do not let a little inconvenience discourage your company from incorporating MFA into your security posture.
It Takes More Time.
One of the drawbacks to MFA is that it adds an additional step to the login process for users, which degrades the user experience and can leave users frustrated. However, like any other technology changes, it takes time. Over time, MFA authentication will become as routine as user names and passwords. The biggest barrier is the set-up process; it is time-consuming to establish, especially when utilizing biometrics. However, the end result is worth the time and investment.
It Is Not Free.
A business cannot decide one morning they are going to implement multi-factor authentication, assign a team, and do it on their own. It is a fairly complex process that needs specialized guidance, knowledge, and skills. This means hiring an expert that can set it up precisely and securely. While the initial costs for setup may be high, the costs of a data breach (or multiple breaches) can be far higher.
Although MFA comes with some disadvantages, it is still considered to be a valid form of security that substantially improves a company’s ability to protect itself, its employees, its customers, and its vendors.
The good news is there are technology tools to help alleviate some of the drawbacks of 2FA and MFA. For instance, companies can utilize encrypted password managers. These tools improve the user experience and can discourage them from attempting to take shortcuts (e.g. bad and less secure practices) because the password manager does the work for them.
Companies that do not have MFA in place allow hackers to have a much easier time gaining access to their accounts, illegally using them (e.g. sending out phishing emails in their name), or otherwise compromising sensitive data.
If you are operating without the additional layer of security MFA provides, your business is more likely to fall victim to phishing campaigns, including ransomware, leaving your company wide open to security threats and potentially huge financial losses. This can also deal a negative blow to your company’s reputation, an intangible—yet valuable—asset.
Not using MFA can also make you non-compliant in your industry, which could lead to regulatory fines and other penalties. Not to mention, it has a disastrous effect on your business reputation you become known as a business not doing everything it can to safeguard data. In addition, many cyber liability insurance carriers require it.
Connecting with a cybersecurity and privacy attorney is a great step toward strengthening your arsenal of tools to achieve better cybersecurity prevention.
Today’s cyber landscape has become incredibly complex, and a skilled cybersecurity law firm at your side can go a long way towards both protection and compliance.
Data breaches and cyberattacks are not problems that are going away. Given recent trends, businesses will need to be even more vigilant to protect themselves. Multi-factor authentication benefits cannot be understated — at a minimum, businesses should use 2FA, if not MFA requirements, to boost their security posture.
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