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Multi-factor authentication: why is it essential ?

It will come as no surprise to you that our lives, our precious and sensitive information, can easily find its way onto the web. Technology can do many good things, but time has shown that it must be used wisely. The Internet is full of data about us, and many web hackers are on a mission to steal it from us. The attacks are becoming more and more ingenious. There are several ways to protect yourself against them, including multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Let’s define this method together

It is a superior layer of security added to your accounts, normally already protected by a username and associated password. This additional security measure can be 2 factors (2FA, or two-factor authentication) or a combination of more than two, hence the name multi-factor authentication.

An easy-to-use protection method that helps to strengthen the security of your data by requiring multiple credentials.

How does multi-factor authentication work ?

It is used to identify you as a unique, designated person for an account. There are three main categories of factors that can be juxtaposed to create multi-factor authentication:

  1. What you know;
  2. What you have;
  3. Who you are.

The most common example of multi-factor authentication is the use of your debit cards, combining a factor you own (the cards) with something you know (your PINs).

The inherent factor, i.e. who you are, refers to facial recognition technologies, retinal scans or fingerprinting. In the possession category, we also find one-time codes sent by SMS or email that are valid for a short period of time before changing. In addition to these factors, location or time-based criteria can also be added: if your account detects suspicious activity outside your home city or several large expenditures in a short period of time, multi-factor authentication would allow the application or website to ensure through an email that it is really you.

You can usually enable multi-factor authentication in the privacy settings of your accounts and should always take it when offered by a website or application.

Why use multi-factor authentication ?

When it comes to an online account on a mobile app, for example, the simple combination of a username and password is no longer sufficient, as both belong to factors you know. This is a security issue, as this information, once known to hackers, could well allow them to access many of your accounts. Adding a biometric factor to your authentication or to something you possess, serves to prevent cyber attacks while keeping your sensitive information safe.

By relying on only one authentication factor on your mobile phone accounts or any other mobile device, you increase the chances of malware infiltrating your data and compromising it. Using multi-factor authentication makes life more difficult for malicious individuals and often prevents them from committing data theft. If a hacker manages to discover your first password, he will always be missing the second, and so on.

Of course, it is not a perfect guarantee of avoiding digital attacks. Rather, it is a firewall mechanism that dramatically reduces your risk of data theft, loss or corruption. For every factor added to your authentication, the risk of attack decreases exponentially. Since it has been proven that most people only use a small handful of different passwords on average (less than 5!), multi-factor authentication makes sense. Moreover, the majority of these passwords have a low level of security and relate to easily identifiable data about the person holding them (a birthday, for example).

With multi-factor authentication, if one factor of your credentials is understood, the attacker still has to break one or two additional security barriers before reaching his target. That’s why multi-factor authentication takes advantage of multiple methods to ensure the identity of its user.

In this digital age, businesses can and should implement multi-factor authentication to ensure their organization’s cyber security by guaranteeing the integrity and uniqueness of their data. If you need help implementing multi-factor authentication on your servers and other effective cybersecurity methods, DMIB is the resource to help you! Call on our experts to start your path to optimal cybersecurity.