14 Options for Multi-Factor Authentication Implementation

implementing multi factor authentication

September 1, 2021

You do not know when hackers will strike, making it imperative to stay alert and prepared. Failure to stay diligent can have costly consequences.

Just consider what happened to Equifax, an American multi-national consumer credit reporting agency. In 2017, Equifax owned up to a data breach that compromised the personal details of 147 million people. The company later agreed to a global settlement worth a whopping $425 million. 

On top of the financial repercussions of a data breach, there’s the stigma to deal with as well. Your company will likely be left with a damaged reputation. People will think twice about doing business with you, believing you’re incapable of protecting their information. 

These drawbacks are a high price to pay for what may be considered an avoidable mistake since there are ways to beef up your organization’s security infrastructure. Think: Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Ideally, MFA is woven into your identity and access management (IAM) policy, supported by a reliable identity management services provider.

Why is Multi-Factor Authentication Important?

Multi-Factor Authentication refers to a series of authentication methods required of anyone who intends to access digital resources, such as online accounts. With MFA, you strengthen your organization’s digital security, therefore, protecting your clients or user base from cybercriminals. As a result, you gain their trust. Plus, you are spared from the immense costs associated with dealing with a data breach. 

These are benefits worthy of every penny when investing in the system. This is especially so if your business operates in the financial services sector, where compromised information could mean data privacy issues and significant financial loss. 

14 Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Methods 

To spare you from authentication security problems, here’s a list of methods that could be incorporated into your multi-factor authentication process.

1: Password protection

This is a user’s first line of defense. For utmost protection, require strong passwords containing at least 12 characters. They should be a combination of capital letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Even better than a complex password of random letters is the use of a unique and complex passphrase that enables mnemonic memory, such as “my_CH@ir_HaS_2_wh!te_l3gs”.  A phrase is easier to remember, longer, and more secure as a result.

2: Answers to security questions

Upon sign-up, a user is often asked to select a security question(s) and then provide the answers to these questions. For logins, they will be required to answer one or all chosen security questions for verification depending on risk level. This type of Knowledge-Based Authentication helps add complexity to the login process, preventing hackers from gaining unauthorized access.

3: SMS Based Authentication

Short Message Service or SMS authentication is a type of two-factor authentication common due to its ease of use. Users receive a unique code sent to their mobile device via text message, and use that to verify their identity. While effective, it is not the most secure form of authentication, and can be easily circumvented by a determined hacker. 

4: Time-based OTP

One-time passwords (OTPs) provide the end user with a unique one-time password that is time-sensitive. A user must use the OTP before the set time runs out.

5: Push notification

This MFA method uses data like the application name, browser, and operating system (OS). It also considers the date and location of the login request to authenticate the user’s identity. Finally, the user approves the notification to log in. These are most commonly sent via cell phone apps, but may also appear as pop-ups or desktop notifications.

6: Email verification

Upon sign-up, users enroll their email address on an app or website, which initiates verification. The app or website will send a unique code to the submitted email for logins, which becomes the user’s second-level password. As with SMS-based authentication, email verification can be prone to being circumvented or used to falsify access. If needed, try to augment email verification with another factor of authentication.

7: Security keys or hardware tokens

These hardware devices connect to a user’s computer via the USB port or Near-Field Communication (NFC). They can operate in multiple ways, which can include generating codes algorithmically that sync up with the system being accessed or through sheer proximity, as in the case with NFC. 

8: Software tokens 

These are similar to security keys in that they generate a token that is used to authenticate the user, usually in the form of a cryptographically generated string. Software tokens can exist in apps, be downloaded to computers, and easily generated for new users. 

9: Digital certificates

This multifactor authentication method is akin to your passport or driver’s license. They are electronic documents bearing unique data, such as a digital signature and a public key. They are common with web-based applications or for devices or systems to communicate directly with each other, rather than a human.

10: Fingerprints

You can require users to record their fingerprints on the app upon sign up as biometric data. For logins, they will be asked for fingerprint identification to be allowed access. Fingerprint technology has become commonplace on mobile phones for unlocking them, although the sensors on mobile devices are relatively easy to spoof. When used for situations that require high accuracy or security, standalone fingerprint sensors are typically used.

11: Facial recognition

This can work in tandem with fingerprint identification or a standalone biometric level of a multifactor authentication process. When used for authentication, facial recognition is used purely as a method to verify the identity of someone requesting access, rather than as a method of surveillance. This distinction is crucial for protecting user privacy and encouraging user adoption of the technology.

12: Voice recognition

This is another biometric method of authentication. Usually, this method relies on standardized words which a user must say to verify their identity. As with other biometric methods of authentication, it relies heavily on the algorithms used.

13: Location authentication

This authentication level considers a user’s I.P. address. It also looks into exact geolocation, if possible. This is sometimes considered a form of behavioral biometrics, where any sudden changes or abrupt differences from normal trends is considered a red flag.

14: Risk-based authentication

With risk-based authentication, the behavioral pattern of the user is analyzed. For instance: is the user trying to access a website or app during unusual hours? Or is the access being done from a suspicious location? What device is being used? Authentication hinges on these considerations. As with location authentication, this is often considered just a subset of behavioral biometrics. 

Screen Like a Pro

When you decide which multi-factor authentication methods to implement, think of your clients or user base. While you want them to provide sufficient proof of identity, you also want to keep the process as frictionless as possible. The key is to choose a combination of authentication methods that won’t ruin the employee or customer experience, but will still keep them secure. 

Still, at the end of it all, security trumps ease. So don’t think twice about favoring the former if it comes down to it. Remember that multi-factor authentication methods are beneficial not only to your business but also to your clients or user base. 

Reach out to Q5id if you’re ready to implement an effective identity management system.

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