Multifactor authentication, also known as MFA or 2FA (two-factor authentication), is a security protocol that requires users to provide multiple forms of identification before gaining access to a system, application, or an account. By combining two or more authentication factors, MFA adds an additional layer of protection and helps prevent unauthorized access.
Exploring Different Forms of MFA
The most popular and widely used form of authentication is password-based authentication. This method relies on a single password for accessing an account. However, this approach lacks robust security, as users often forget their passwords or choose easily guessable ones, making them vulnerable to hacking attempts.
Knowledge-based authentication involves answering a set of predefined questions to verify your identity. For example, when logging into your banking app, you may be prompted to answer security questions like the make of your first car or the name of your high school. While this method adds an extra layer of security, it can be insecure if users forget their answers or if hackers can easily collect personal data and guess the answers.
For example, one popular trend on social media that’s been around for a while is to answer questions about yourself. So there will be like 30 questions. along the lines of where did you get married? Where was your honeymoon? What was the name of your first dog?
Although these social media trends seem harmless and fun, you definitely have to be careful of where you are putting this information. A lot of these questions are common security questions used in knowledge-based MFA and hackers can easily find the questions they are looking for based on you social profiles.
Hardware Token Authentication
While this method adds an extra layer of security by utilizing a physical device, like a USB stick or smart cards to generate a unique one time password, these tokens can be expensive and there’s always the risk of it being lost or stolen.
SMS Token Authentication
This is the most popular form of authentication as this approach involves receiving a text message with a PIN number serving as a one time password. It’s convenient for the general public and consumers, and a lot of applications like Microsoft and Google are using this step of multi-factor authentication.
Email Token Authentication
This type of MFA is very similar to SMS. However, you will receive a one time password/code to you email. This is a great option if you don’t have your mobile device with you or maybe you don’t have one at all, but you can access this form of MFA from anywhere you can view your email.
This type utilizes features like fingerprint ID or facial recognition. Popular forms of this are regular options on cell phones nowadays. If you have a lock on your phone, you can easily hold it up to your face and it unlocks.
Push Notification Authentication
This involves generating a one time limited passcode on a mobile device through apps like Microsoft Authenticator or Duo. It’s similar to SMS MFA but instead of receiving a text message it sends you a notification to an app that is already downloaded to your mobile device.
When you log into an application, it will send a push notification to the app on your phone where it will generate a time limited code. You typically have 30 seconds to put it in. If you do not enter it within that timeframe, it regenerates. Another version of this is it will send you a notification letting you know that someone is trying to login and then you need to give it permission if it is you.
Why you should be using Multi-Factor Authentication
There are many reasons, but definitely for heightened security. MFA reduces reliance on weaker reused passwords, minimizing the likelihood of successful brute force attacks or password guessing.
In today’s digital age, bigger organizations and corporations are implementing MFA into their security protocols. Applications like Microsoft, Adobe, Google, etc, have all now made it mandatory to receive a text or email with a one time password to login.
Here at Skycomp we strongly suggest implementing MFA wherever it’s applicable. A lot of apps offer it, but they don’t make it mandatory, so you have to go in and manually set it up. Yes, we know it can be frustrating to take that extra step to log in, but taking that extra step helps protect your accounts 98% more effectively than just having the one password.
That is our brief explanation on MFA, the different forms of it and why it’s important to implement it in your everyday life. If you have any questions or want to learn more, feel free to reach out to us!