An unlocked door doesn’t give the layer of security to an opportunistic robber, whereas a locked door provides you one layer of security. Now, take it one step further and imagine that the door also requires a card or fingerprint reader in addition to the key to unlocking the door. Now you have multiple layers of security.
And although there is still a small chance an attacker to break in, it would slow them down, and more than likely, they would move on to an easier target.
MFA is the single most effective control to protect an organization against unknown attacks. It can stop most threat actors from quickly attaining the first entry into your organization when implemented correctly.
What is Multi-Factor Authentication?
MFA requires users to enter more than one — typically two pieces of information to access an account. Enabling MFA, whenever possible, reduces the risk of important data becoming compromised. In addition to passwords, MFA adds another security layer, making it more difficult for breaches to accounts.
Standard implementations of two-factor authentication require three distinctive characteristics as factors:
Knowledge factors are something you know: Passwords
Possession factors apply to things you own, such as one-time passcode sent to your smartphone or provided via a token
Inherence factors use your biological characteristics like fingerprint scans.
How Multi-Factor Authentication Can Affect Your Environment
While it is recommended employees undergo security awareness training, phishing threats are becoming more sophisticated, and users do not fully understand network exposure risks and how a threat attacker can take advantage of compromised credentials.
The need for MFA goes beyond your immediate network, as well.
If your organization uses third-party services, they should also use MFA.
While you can enforce password rules, you can’t force people to use different passwords for all the third-party services used by your company. Assume a threat actor has obtained a user’s password, and they attempt to use the compromised credential to log in to your network—where you have MFA installed. The first factor is successful, but the hacker cannot successfully log in to the second factor.
The malicious actor will likely take the compromised password and try it on the third-party services regularly used by the company until it works. While the threat actor may not directly attain access to your network, they can still access sensitive data if you don’t have MFA installed on those third-party services.
Multi-factor Authentication Support Technology
You can find a list of websites supporting MFA at Two Factor Auth. It is a reliable resource to help employees decide if they should use a service that hosts sensitive data. Below are some steps for fulfilling authentication factors:
• SMS – After entering your password, a code is delivered via text message to confirm access.
• Authenticator apps – Generate time-sensitive codes based on a secret key that must be entered after entering your password.
• SecurityTokens – Hardware devices that allow access to a network service.
What are the Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication?
Implementing MFA companywide is one of the most effective means to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Without this added layer of security, an attacker can exploit an exposed email account or endanger a poorly-protected application to obtain access to more user information— even worse, leverage their “foothold” to heighten privileges and achieve superuser access within the entire network.
An often-overlooked benefit of multi-factor authentication happens when attackers try to authenticate an account with MFA enabled, and the targeted employee receives a second authentication factor. If trained properly through security awareness training, the employee can identify the breach and report it to the security or IT department for resolution and prevention.
According to Forbes, 74% of all data breaches originated with privileged credential abuse.
Identity theft is the second leading form of cybercrime in the world, beaten only by phishing scams. Threat actors can obtain your most critical business information with only a single compromised account, regardless of the individual’s location.
Cyber attackers will have difficulty accessing data through stolen credentials because of the multi-tier authentication process with MFA. Not only would a cybercriminal need to know the username and password of the account they’ve compromised, but they also need access to the user’s business email address, cell phone, or another secondary device. Thereby significantly reducing the threat of identity theft, by up to 99%, according to Microsoft.
How Can Multi-Factor Authentication Be Applied?
Use MFA in scenarios (internal or external) where an extra layer of security is required. One of the most critical multi-factor authentication applications is its use for accessing and running remote network environments. With the increase of security breaches on organizations, one cannot rely solely on password strength as the only security layer for an organization to prevent threat actors from gaining unauthorized access. MFA is a way to reduce the possibility of a data breach from a compromised password.
Cisco Duo is an MFA solution that offers you a way to create a zero-trust environment. With Duo, you have can verify the identity of user accounts and devices companywide and complete visibility into each device on your network. You will also have the opportunity to securely integrate MFA into many of your cloud applications.
To learn more about MFA and other security solutions for remote or hybrid-remote environments, visit our cybersecurity services page today.