Cybersecurity for your business is more important every year as technology advances and more vital assets are held in digital spaces. Financial data, client information, proprietary secrets, and stored passwords are just some of what can be compromised if your system falls into the hands of a cyber criminal. Everyone in your organization needs some level of access to company systems to perform their duties, but sometimes it can feel like the more people who have access, the less safe your valuable digital assets are.
This is where multi-factor authentication comes in. This method of strengthening access control ensures that your business’s IT environment is protected from bad actors who may have acquired passwords or other methods of access in a breach, phishing attempt, or brute force attack. Multi-factor authentication goes the extra step to verify that anyone accessing your system is approved to be there.
What is Multi-Factor Authentication?
Multi-factor authentication is a method of verifying access in which more than one verification is needed to gain access to a particular system. Email providers asking users to verify their identity with a mobile device, or even the gas pump requesting buyers to enter their zip code when they use a credit card are both very low-level examples of multi-factor authentication. In both of these scenarios, just like any other multi-factor authentication, the system asks the user to verify their identity with a second - or even third - method, lessening the chance that the wrong person gains access.
Multi-factor authentication can take many forms, but shares some common principles. Any factor in the authentication process with this model will target a different type of verification to more reliably confirm identity. All verifications typically fall into one of the following three buckets, though exceptions can exist.
Personal knowledge. This type of verification affirms knowledge that only the intended accessor would know. These security questions are often requesting personal information such as the model of your first car, your mother’s maiden name, or the zip code for your credit card at the gas pump. A PIN in addition to a password would be another example of this, and it ensures that cyber criminals can't simply steal passwords and gain access, they essentially have to have both keys to open the lock.
Possession. This category of verification involves achieving access through only something the intended user would have in their procession such as a cell phone, credit card, or ID badge. This type of authentication is very secure because it involves a non-digital item that a cyber criminal would have to physically steal to gain access. This can cause issues for IT departments occasionally though as users also need to maintain the physical item or they won’t be granted access, either. A lost ID badge or changing phone numbers could throw a wrench in the system unless carefully planned for.
Inherent identity. This category verifies something that is absolutely unique to the person who the access belongs to. Biometrics like facial scans and thumbprints fall into this category, but less advanced methods can also be implemented such as signature verification.
Where Can Multi-Factor Authentication Be Used?
Multi-factor authentication can be employed in numerous ways to shore up security in your system. Though no method of security is perfect, multi-factor authentication multiplies safeguards on your system, making it much more complicated for unwanted access to be achieved.
Some form of multi-factor authentication can be employed in many areas of your digital ecosystem to help protect your business's valuable work. Multi-factor authentication is compatible with Single Sign-on (SSO) solutions and is easy to implement. This makes it a simple and quick way to increase security, and can even be beneficial in tandem with a business’s current security measures and solutions, like a managed business IT service. It can be used to secure specific systems such as financial data or client information, or it can be tied to an organization’s whole network infrastructure, or anywhere in between.
What are the Benefits Businesses Can Have by Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication?
The benefits of additional security are numerous. Data breaches can be extremely costly, plus demand valuable time and resources to repair damage and reinstate security. As with all security, businesses should prepare for more than is needed, but even preventing one costly incursion can be well worth a sustained security effort.
The more people that have access to a system, the more vulnerabilities are present. Security is about eliminating the need for trust and instead building redundancies to ensure maintained safety. Employee negligence with access is a leading cause of digital breaches for most organizations, and there are many ways to encourage more responsible security behavior. Multi-factor authentication ensures that simple passwords obtained through phishing, brute force, or even hacking personal devices with shared passwords won't compromise an organization's security.
Protected Employee and Company Data
Advanced security protocols aren't just to protect company data from employees being careless with access. Employees potentially have sensitive data in the system too through HR files, and breaches can give cyber criminal access to compromising data from clients, partners, company, and employees. Protecting this data with multi-factor authentication protects everybody involved.
Regulatory Compliance Adherence
For some industries, regulations may require more advanced security than simple passwords. Payment processing, legal, and medical applications are often required to enact strict security measures depending on where they do business. As many companies have some part of their system dedicated to sensitive areas like these, it's advisable to check regulations that apply to your organization and ensure that your system is secured.
Secured Remote Workers
With the sharp increase in work from home solutions in 2020 and into 2021, companies saw a massive increase in cyberattacks. With employees out of the office, they are often out of the influence of an IT department. With outdated bring your own device (BYOD) policies, businesses have to trust their employees’ ability to enact security protocols like VPNs and enhanced passwords. Proper security should not have to rely on trust, particularly when employees are not experts. Multi-factor authentication ensures that only those who are authorized are accessing systems.
Lessened Workload for IT Departments
Breaches are costly and time-consuming. IT professionals will have to diagnose exactly what went wrong, try to recover what they can, and then engineer a solution to the problem. Protecting a network infrastructure by implementing multi-factor authentication frees those professionals to work on more productive issues instead of putting out avoidable fires.
Adding Multi-Factor Authentication to Your Cybersecurity Protocols
Multi-factor authentication is an easy and effective way to lock your business against the most common types of cybersecurity threats and costly breaches. You never want to need security, but once you do, it's too late. Take preparations now and secure the hard work your organization does by partnering with a cybersecurity specialist today to implement a multi-factor authentication solution that works to protect your business.