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Along with today’s advanced technologies come new and more creative ways fraudsters can infiltrate databases. In 2020, the Consumer Sentinel Network by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 4.8 million reports on fraud, identity theft, and other cyber threats, which is a 45% increase from the previous year.

Globally, cybercrime costs are projected to inflict $6 trillion worth of damages by the end of 2021 and continue to grow by as much as 15% per year over the next five years. Without proper cybersecurity protocols, this could blow up to $10.5 trillion by 2025.

Considering such alarming rates, protective solutions such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) have never been more important. These robust systems enable organizations to authenticate any given user, reducing various risks in the process.
authentication factors

Multi-Factor Authentication Explained

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a multi-layered protection framework that verifies the identity of a user attempting to log in or request information from a secured network, system, or application. Unlike the traditional sign-in approach, it requires more than a username and password to gain access to a system.

This added layer of protection asks for one or more factors to ensure that all types of resources, particularly personal and sensitive information, are kept at utmost confidentiality. Below are some of the most common elements that make a strong authentication process.

Knowledge Factor: Something You Know

A knowledge factor is the most popular category of credentials used for authentication. Often referred to as “something you know,” this authentication requires the user to provide knowledge on confidential information before accessing a secured network.

While this identity authentication method can be as unique as the user sets it to be, using it alone poses vulnerabilities. Apart from the bad actors that can hack into systems with their latest technologies, there are your close family members and friends that can get to your accounts if they know the answers to your secret questions.

To top up your security efforts, be sure to incorporate a combination of the following knowledge factors into your MFA:

1: Passwords. Typically in tandem with a username is a password. It’s a prime example of a challenge-response authentication, where a user sets and uses a string of characters to limit access to a protected system. Passwords may vary in length and combinations with letters in different cases, numbers, and special symbols.

2: Personal identification numbers (PINs). Contrary to popular belief, passwords and PINs are not the same. Although both can be a variation of alphanumeric and special characters, PINs are generally shorter at four to fix characters. They are also tied to a device, making it a safer bet than passwords.

3: Security questions. Besides setting up codes to lock your networks, security questions are an alternative way to keep your data safe. It complements the other types of authentication, as the answers can identify users even when they’ve forgotten their credentials or tried to access an account from an unfamiliar device or location.

Possession Factor: Something You Have

Another authentication category mainly used in the space is the possession factor, which essentially is the key to the security lock. It demands “something you have” before being granted access to the network, requiring the use of a physical object such as a token or device.

Although possession-based authentication is more complex and harder to crack than knowledge factors, it’s still prone to attacks. The challenge lies in keeping your data storage safe from cyber culprits who would strategically trick people into sharing their authentication codes or launch malware to hack into their devices.

In case you’re yet to integrate a cybersecurity protocol in your business, here are some examples of possession-based authentication you may want to consider:

1: SMS one-time passwords (OTPs). Aside from assigning strong passcodes, having an OTP in your authentication process helps minimize the risk of unauthorized access in your system. These automatically generated unique passwords are meant to be used just once at a given timeframe and sent via SMS to the number registered by the user.

2: Hardware tokens. A hard token is a portable hardware device that a user possesses, generating OTPs to authorize access to a particular network. This tool serves as an alternative to enrolling a mobile number for passcodes, further eliminating any other hacking risks.

3: Security keys. Another tangible solution that can strengthen your cybersecurity efforts is security keys. Light and compact, they work by plugging them into your computer’s USB port. Once connected, your browser will issue a challenge for the domain you want to access, which the key will then cryptographically sign to let you in.

Inherence Factor: Something You Are

An inherence factor is a metric slowly becoming a staple in today’s modern cybersecurity practice. Also branded as a biometric authentication system, this operates on “something you are,” making it nearly 100% unique to the authorized user.

Since it’s a non-transferable factor compared to the others, the inherence factor sets high assurance and security to individuals and organizations alike when it comes to identity verification. Another selling point to this authentication process is its user experience, as it’s designed to run as quickly as possible without compromising precision.

With technology for network security on the rise, below are a few inherence-based authentications currently in demand in the market to supplement your defense against data breaches:

1: Fingerprint scan. Unlike passwords or tokens, fingerprint authentication issues irrefutable evidence of employee and customer transactions within your system. They are unique per individual, can’t be stolen or guessed, and provide highly reliable security against unauthorized access and insider threats. They are also cheaper and easier to integrate than most solutions.

2: Iris recognition. This biometric method scans the patterns of an iris, which is unique for every person, just like fingerprints. A National Institute of Standards & Technology report shows that iris recognition technology can produce an accuracy rate of 90–99%, which is why incorporating it promises high resistance against false matches and break-ins.

3: Facial authentication. Another breakthrough inherence factor used in most MFA is facial authentication. This technology uses biometrics to identify and verify the user’s dynamic facial features from its database of unique patterns exclusively associated with the authorized person’s face and facial expressions. Unlike facial recognition’s 1:N match performance, facial authentication works 1:1, assuring precise matches during authentication.

Level Up Your Authentication Process

A 2019 Microsoft study attests that an “account is more than 99.9% less likely to be compromised” if MFA is in place. As an organization, having this added layer of protection not only is one of the best ways to safeguard your entire system but also highlights how much you care for the security of the people you do business with, above all.

While each MFA method has its own benefits, some are evidently more suitable for your brand than others. 

If you’re on the lookout for a top-notch biometrics authentication system to incorporate into your day-to-day, check out our Complete Proven Identity Solutions. Learn how the technology works and how it can keep your processes safe.

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