Multi-Factor Authentication: The Ultimate Guide

More individuals are turning towards mobile banking and e-wallets for their transactions. While this opens up plenty of opportunities for banks and financial institutions to innovate, it does bring risk with it. The continuous rise of cybercrime attacks puts your customers’ credentials (and money) at risk. With this in mind, having tighter authentication security is an easy to incorporate security layer many businesses should consider investing in for their organization’s benefit.

For more information about identity management solutions and multi-factor authentication (MFA) processes, take a look at the infographic below for your guidance.

Multi-Factor Authentication: The Ultimate Guide

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds a layer to your cybersecurity strategy by requiring you to validate your identity with multiple verification processes. This includes answering security questions and presenting proof of identity, among others.

Why is Multi-Factor Authentication Important?

Enabling this security measure makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to fraudulently log into your systems and access data. As a result, you are less likely to be a victim of theft or other types of fraud.

Verification Factors

Knowledge (what you know)

This verification type is the most common and typically requires the personal knowledge of the user. Passwords are a common type of this factor.

Possession (what you have)

This requires a key from the user to unlock their accounts. It can be a physical security token or one-time password that can only be used for a specific login session. Your cell phone is often treated as a verification factor, for example, as few of us are ever without them.

Inherence (what you are)

This requires users to confirm their identity through biometric methods like fingerprint, voice, face, or iris scans. In some cases, keystroke dynamics and behavioral biometrics may also be used.

Multi-Factor Authentication Methods

One-time password (OTP)

OTPs are temporary verification codes that remain active only for a short time. After a specific time passes, a new code will be required if the previous one was not verified.

Short Message Service (SMS)

You can receive authentication passwords on your phone through SMS text message, without subscribing to or installing an additional app or service. This can be used to authenticate a registered phone as well.

Email

A unique link or code is sent to your registered email address. Using this authentication method requires a verified email account.

Smartcards

Smartcards can act as physical keys that authenticate access. They can also be used to authorize transactions and other similar activities.

Soft token Software Development Kits (SDKs)

This software can be embedded into mobile apps and utilizes cryptographic methods to authenticate a device. With this option, switching between other platforms becomes unnecessary.

Authenticator Apps

These apps use time-based algorithms to verify and authenticate users. They can be connected to several websites or services to create more secure access.

Fast Identity Online Security Key (FIDO2)

This is one type of passwordless authentication. It can be in the form of a USB drive or NFC device that can be plugged into a system to authenticate a user.

Voice Verification

This method analyzes distinctive vocal characteristics to authenticate a user. It can also scan the movement and shape of the mouth during speech.

OATH software tokens

This is a free, open-source authentication method that implements the RFC 4226 HOTP algorithm. Multiple tokens can be configured as time- or event-based.

Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication

Tighter security

MFA provides better security than passwords alone. The more factors you use, the greater your cybersecurity.

Better protection against credential theft

It ensures that password theft is not enough to access your data on another device.

Compatible with single sign-on (SSO)

It can eliminate the need to make multiple passwords or passphrases for different applications. 

Easy implementation

Multi-factor authentication is non-invasive, low friction, and can be used to augment nearly any business software or system.

Better security from remote locations

MFA can be used to set alerts or automated triggers that block users and report potential threats when suspicious activity is detected from another location. It also enables better identity assurance for workers that are entirely remote.

A reliable cybersecurity solution

Stricter security measures make it difficult for hackers to gain fraudulent access to your accounts.

Assures your identity

MFA protects your data from identity theft by adding another layer of protection. Using a solution such as the Q5id Proven Identity app verifies identity and guards it using biometric technology.

Regulatory compliance

Compliance with data protection laws gives you more peace of mind that your system is well secured. Securing data guards it against breaches or hacks, protecting your business from fines, and keeping your users’ identities safe.

Easier secure login process

The added layer of security can simplify secured login processes from your verified devices.

Challenges with Multi-Factor Authentication

Adoption can be low and slow

Different applications require different implementations of multi-factor authentication, which can slow down the process of how people adapt to the system.

Can be hard to develop and implement

Development can be tricky depending on the kind of system it would be implemented on or what technology is needed to support the MFA tool.

Can be difficult to support

It can be challenging to support multiple types of MFA or multiple identity management systems.

Access codes can be stolen

Advanced phishing scams and similar hacking attempts can still bypass lesser security measures.

Swapping out Subscriber Identity Modules (SIM)

Hackers can steal or swap your phone’s SIM card to gain OTPs and access your accounts. (Also known as SIM-swapping)

Human error

Security management can make mistakes when authorizing access to multiple accounts at once.

Poor admin configuration

Hackers can access other accounts through backdoors and unsecured networks when admin-level access is not properly configured.

Multi-Factor Authentication Best Practices

Full implementation in all areas

Secure all access points through company-wide implementation.

Use different authentication factors

Multiple authentication factor options grant more convenience and security for the user.

Evaluate protocols regularly

Check for security vulnerabilities and zero-day exploits.

Leverage context for adaptive MFA

User experience is enhanced through context, such as device, location, or behavioral clues, that eliminate unnecessary additional factors.

Adopt a standardized approach

Consistent standards through the security network and IT infrastructures ensure clear communication and consistent maintenance.

Combine with other security tools

MFA can be paired with other tools to further enhance the security strategy of your organization.

Privacy protocols

Ensure that the user’s confidential data is used for verification processes only, in compliance with relevant privacy laws.

Lockdown protocols

Act as a last resort when multiple logs of suspicious activity are detected. Minimizes how far ransomware can spread or how far a hacker can get into your network.

Self-Service Features

Use MFA to offer users the ability to reset passwords, securely authenticate or verify suspicious activity, or engage in other actions that would have required approval from the IT team.

multifactor authentication best practices

Multi-Factor Authentication: The Ultimate Guide

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

A method of verifying a given user with multiple factors, at least two but most commonly three or more. This cybersecurity measure validates and verifies someone’s identity whenever they need to access their online accounts. Enabling this tightens your business’ security and prevents hackers from stealing valuable data. There are many ways to use MFA, which also range in the level of protection they provide.

Why is Multi-Factor Authentication Important?

By verifying the identity of users in your system, you guard against unauthorized access to sensitive business data. This protects your business from the majority of hackers simply looking for an easy score, and makes it significantly more challenging for those that are specifically targeting your business. 

Verification Types

Knowledge

Knowledge-based verification types require information that only the account holder is aware of. These include personal passwords or passphrases, numeric codes, personal identification numbers (PIN), and security questions.

Possession

Possession factors refer to something that only the user has and are unique to them. Examples include authentication devices that can be used to verify a login attempt at a given time.

Inherence/Biometric 

These factors are associated with the user and are typically more difficult to replicate or steal. These methods include any type of biometric scan or verification procedure that is unique to the user.

Multi-Factor Authentication Methods

One-time passwords (OTP), short message service (SMS), and email verification are some of the most common methods you can use due to their simplicity. However, a key factor to consider is that these can vary in security level, and what you’ll use should depend on the complexity of your system.

Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication

Tighter security

Multi-factor authentication is significantly stronger than passwords alone. It is also a reliable process that can block the majority of identity fraud that utilizes stolen or hacked login credentials.

Better protection against credential theft

Another benefit is that even if your password is stolen, MFA prevents hackers from using your password to log into your account. Ideally, this added security requires another app or tool to verify your identity to keep your data safe (also referred to as “out of band authentication”).

Compatible with single sign-on (SSO)

Single sign-on features enhance your productivity without compromising security. Additionally, you won’t need to create and remember multiple passwords for different accounts. When combined with MFA, SSO can significantly improve your digital account access protections.

Easy implementation

MFA is often less costly than other cybersecurity measures. It is also non-invasive and can be easily implemented into any type of system. 

Better security from remote locations

You can remotely enroll new users with a verified identity using a tool such as the Q5id Proven Identity App. Not only can identities be proven remotely, but secure authentication can take place from anywhere the user has access.  

Assures identities

Multi-factor authentication ensures that only authorized users can access an account. Relying on users who have enrolled and proven their identity ensures that all company and client data is protected from unauthorized access.

Regulatory compliance

Compliance with data protection laws helps your company demonstrate that it is trustworthy and safe. 

Easier login process

Logging in is simplified with the use of Multi-factor authentication. This makes the feature more secure and user-friendly for ease of access.

Challenges with Multi-Factor Authentication

Adoption can be low and slow

For some users, multi-factor authentication can be tedious with the requirement for multiple factors. As a result, you may encounter resistance to adoption, particularly among users who are less comfortable with new or changing technology. 

Challenging to support

With multiple computer and phone operating systems, a nearly infinite number of programs, software, and tools, integrating an MFA solution into your entire business ecosystem can be challenging. 

Subscriber Identity Modules (SIM)-Swapping Scams

Your phone’s SIM card contains your mobile account, where OTPs and other verification messages are sent. Hackers can steal this from you and access the information on your account, and this is one reason NIST recommended upgrading from SMS-based authentication as soon as your organization can support it. 

Human error

Your cybersecurity system and MFA setup are only as good as the person who configured it. If parameters for accepting biometric authentication are set incorrectly, illegitimate access can be gained.

Multi-Factor Authentication Best Practices

Full implementation in all systems

The company-wide implementation allows all possible access points to be kept under lock and key. This includes cloud storage when mass transferring data.

Offer different authentication factors

MFA allows a balance between security and convenience. Different types of authentication factors give users more control over their accounts. 

Evaluate protocols regularly

Regular system evaluations allow you to test security against possible attacks. This can ensure that the verification process is kept accurate and secure at all times.

Leverage context for adaptive MFA

User experience can be enhanced with detailed logs of activity that include location, network, type of device, etc. Non-authorized devices are prevented from logging in without further authorization. Verification requests can be pared back or eliminated when specific parameters are met, such as access from within a secured network, from a verified device, or when a user has recently verified already.

Adopt a standard approach

Set standards allow multi-factor authentication to function with existing IT infrastructures. This ensures that the network is centralized.

Combine with other security tools

MFA, when combined with other security tools such as SSO, grants higher privilege security. It also eliminates the use of weaker passwords that are improperly stored.

Privacy protocols

Personal data is stored safely and used only for authentication purposes. These protocols comply with data protection laws. 

Lockdown protocols

Temporarily shuts down a user’s account in the event of suspicious activity. This prevents all access to portals to keep information safe from unauthorized access. 

Self-Service

Users have more control over how they manage their MFA process. This can be most relevant during account enrollments.

Multi-Layer Defense

Security measures are necessary if you don’t want unwanted guests to access your systems and sensitive data. With multi-factor authentication, you can ensure that your company assets are well protected against attempts of theft or fraud.

Learn more about how you can address the security needs of your company by contacting Q5id today.

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