These routinely make the list of most commonly used passwords, and unsurprisingly, they are among the passwords most often uncovered in data breaches. For some organizations, these flimsy sequences of numbers, letters or easily guessable phrases are the only wall of defense between hackers and important company data. But they shouldn’t be.
That’s why more and more companies are implementing multi-factor authentication to add extra layers of security to sensitive and confidential information. Multi-factor authentication reduces risk by requiring users to enter two or more types of information during the login process, making it harder for criminals to get into company systems and less enticing for them to try.
Why Multi-Factor Authentication is Important
Data Breaches & Internet Crime are Rising
The number of data breaches in 2021 reached a record high, up 68% compared to 2020. The pandemic played a role in fueling this increase as the nation’s workforce went remote and IT departments scrambled to cyber-secure individuals working on personal devices and unsecured networks. At the same time, hackers’ techniques have grown more sophisticated and difficult to detect.
According to the FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report, cybercrime victims lost $6.9 billion in 2021. While that number is staggering, businesses have much more than money to lose. Reputation, trust and future revenue can be compromised if customers no longer view your company as a secure place for their personal information.
Passwords Are Often Weak and Easily Stolen
Experts estimate that about 80% of data breaches are due to compromised passwords. In addition to making them weak and predictable, people often share their passwords with others and use the same ones for multiple accounts. Passwords with a mix of numbers, letters and characters are stronger, as is changing them frequently. But this practice also makes them easier to forget. The bottom line: passwords are not enough. It’s time for multi-factor authentication.
How Multi-Factor Authentication Works
An authentication factor is a method for confirming identity. As the name implies, multi-factor authentication requires users to submit multiple factors, or pieces of evidence, of their identity. The most common authentication factors include something users know, have and are.
- Something you know: username/password combination, PIN, or answer to a personal security question
- Something you have: smartphone app or SMS text, software or hardware token, security badge or USB device
- Something you are: biometric data like fingerprints, eye scans or voice/face recognition
The major benefit of multi-factor authentication is that even if a hacker steals a user’s password or PIN, he or she has no way of breaking into your company’s system without access to the users’ phones, faces or fingerprints.
Choosing the Right Multi-factor Authentication
While each organization has unique systems and requirements, there are several factors that we always consider when selecting a multi-factor authentication program.
First, the platform should feature a straightforward interface and allow users to choose from a range of authentication options.
Two of the most common multi-factor authentication methods:
- One-Time Passwords (OTP): 4–8-digit codes sent via email, text or mobile app. Users enter the code to gain access to company systems. OITs are simple and convenient as they require little more than access to a smartphone.
- Authenticator Apps like Microsoft Authenticator, Duo or Okta Verify: a push notification is sent in the app. The user opens the app and approves or declines the verification. This method requires users to download an app but then is as easy to use as OTP.
The best multi-factor authentication programs are also efficient and adaptable. For instance, they can recognize trusted devices, locations, and typical times of use, so authentication isn’t necessary at every touch or login.
Another factor to consider is how users will enroll. A seamless deployment process integrates with company directories, allowing users to self-enroll and set their authentication preferences, saving IT administrators time and resources.
The right multi-factor authentication program will also be highly customizable. It should allow administrators control over access to data as well as configuration policies. And while most solutions come with common pre-built program integrations, you can tailor your system to add custom or industry-specific applications.
Lastly, multi-factor authentication should provide comprehensive reporting and analytics that are both specific to your business needs and provide a detailed overview of its functionality. This data will help you understand how your security processes are working, prove compliance, and make improvements, as necessary.
Our technology advisors are experts in developing custom solutions to protect companies from the threat of cyberattacks. We can assess your company’s digital security system and guide you to the best multi-factor authentication service.
By implementing multi-factor authentication, you are protecting customer information, protecting your business, and protecting yourself against the vulnerabilities of 123456, qwerty and password.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.