Remote work and the changing overall workplace environment mean that our digital identities can be as important as our identities in person. For businesses, keeping up with these changes and challenges is proving daunting.
If your business doesn’t already have a comprehensive strategy for identity management of employees and overall cybersecurity, you can’t afford to wait.
If your employees aren’t taking the needed steps to protect their digital identities, it’s a massive organizational security risk.
Two-factor authentication is one of the core foundational elements of identity protection and cybersecurity. The following is a guide to what every business should know about two-factor authentication or 2FA, which is an added layer of security used during account logins.
What is Multi-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication can fall into the larger category of multi-factor authentication or MFA. Multi-factor authentication is a layered way to secure applications and data. A user, before accessing a system, is required to present two or more credentials rather than just one.
When a business or an individual uses MFA, it improves security because an unauthorized user can’t gain access without the second authentication factor.
The alternative is known as single-factor authentication.
There’s a simple difference between 2FA and MFA. 2FA uses two factors for identity verification. Multi-factor authentication can use two factors, or it can use three.
The three different authentication factors that are an option include:
- Knowledge is something a user knows. A knowledge factor is most commonly a password, and it can also include the answers to a challenge question, like the user’s mother’s maiden name.
- Possession is a second-factor option. Possession is something the user has, like a one-time password.
- Inherence is a third factor category. Inherence is a characteristic that’s unique to a user, like their fingerprint or voice recognition.
For any organization, MFA is important because it’s improving your security.
Usernames and passwords are vulnerable to attacks like brute force attacks. Passwords and credentials can also be stolen by third parties.
The second piece of information used in 2FA or MFA should be extremely difficult for a cybercriminal to get their hands on or acquire. The second factor is very unique to the individual.
Along with the added layer of security, implementing 2FA is relatively easy. Many cybersecurity measures can get challenging and complex to implement and use, but this isn’t the case with 2FA. It’s not intrusive, and it’s a simple way to protect your assets.
Exploring the Different Types of MFA Methods
We generally talked about the types of MFA methods above, but learning a little more about each can help you decide which might be right for your employees and your business.
SMS token authentication is very common. With this method, your employees would use their typical login credentials, and then the platform sends a one-time code through a text message. The user puts the code into the field provided to them.
An SMS token is easy to use because it’s likely that all of your employees have a smartphone. It’s also tough for hackers to penetrate because it’s unlikely they’re going to have someone’s login credentials and their mobile device at the same time.
Another pretty simple option is email token authentication. It’s similar to SMS token authentication, except a one-time code is sent by email instead of text.
Biometric authentication is more advanced and maybe not the most feasible option for a small business. Biometric authentication might use a fingerprint or facial recognition to verify the identity of the person trying to access the content. You may use this on your smartphone because it’s something Apple has led the way with.
Security questions are technically a form of MFA, although they’re the oldest and weakest in terms of cybersecurity.
How to Implement Multi-Factor Authentication
To implement MFA in your business, there are some best practices to keep in mind. This, if you aren’t already doing it, should be a key initiative in your cybersecurity plan in the very near future because it’s a simple, easy, and effective approach.
- Start with the most important accounts first. If you’re a very small business or your employees are hesitant when you start with the most vital accounts, you’re adding significant protection, but it’s not overwhelming. Your highest priority in implementation should be the employees responsible for handling the most sensitive data. From there, you might protect your end-users and then your regular employees who might have little or no access to data that’s considered sensitive or confidential.
- Choose versatile, practical solutions. You want to make sure that whatever you choose is going to support your business needs currently and also into the future. You may find the ideal MFA solution is going to be easy to install and also to maintain and be compatible with your software and hardware. It should be flexible in terms of available authentication factors, user-friendly, and it should be affordable based on your budget.
- Keeping MFA as easy as possible for users is a requirement. You never want to overcomplicate it because it will frustrate users and potentially impair productivity. Keep in mind that you want things to be as free of frustration for your IT department too. Choose a solution that works along with your current infrastructure.
- Train and education your employees on MFA and also cybersecurity in general. Even when you have the best cybersecurity technology and tools in place, your employees can still be your weakest link. Informed and empowered employees are your absolute best line of defense.
Finally, keep in mind that while you might start with privileged users in your implementation, MFA is not just for these people. MFA is to protect any account that accesses systems, data, and applications in any way.
Cybersecurity is a pressing issue for businesses of all sizes, but knowing where to start can also feel overwhelming. Two-factor or multi-factor authentication are excellent starting points that are attainable and fairly easy to put into place and can have a big payoff in terms of securing your business and data.