Multi-factor authentication (or MFA) is more or less exactly what it sounds like. To access an application, you first need to pass two or more phases of verification. MFA is an extra step to ensure that you are who you say you are.
For businesses, Multi-factor authentication is a security must-have. Gone are the days when a username and password were enough. Users can access Cloud applications from anywhere, which means hackers can too. We need extra measures to block third party hackers and other malware. MFA is important to ensure protection for users and organisations alike.
Here’s a quick overview of the types of authentications can protect your business. The more layers, the better the security.
Different types of MFA
OTPs (One time passwords)
This is one of the most common forms of multi-factor authentication. OTPs are one-time codes sent to a user’s email address or mobile number. The code will give them access to an application or website. Some handy phone applications recognise the text, and autofill the OTP field for you to save time.
Personal security questions
Most of us have encountered the questions, “what is your father’s middle name?” or “what was your first pet’s name?” These are typical MFA security questions. If you know something that no one else would ever know about you, then security questions can help. If your favourite meal’s spaghetti bolognese though, you’re not as secure as you might be.
Voice and facial recognition
In recent years, voice and facial recognition have become more popular. Most modern devices have facial recognition, but voice authentication’s had a slower uptake. Your telephone bank or Alexa may already have asked you to set it up. It should be as reliable as fingerprint or facial recognition, but it can make people uneasy. “Your voice is your password,” is all well and good until an impersonator who knows your favourite meal tries to access your bank account. Voice recognition won’t usually be the only security measure for sensitive information.
Fingerprints and other biometrics
Face ID has been getting all the attention these days but “Touch ID” is still ubiquitous. Fingerprint access biometric application still common on mobile phones and computers. If you’ve tried to access your smartphone with mucky fingers, you’ll know how secure fingerprint authentication is. You can set up several fingerprints, either yours, or of trusted friends and family. An extra secure smartphone also adds a layer of security when you need an OTP.
This type of MFA is a little more tricky and requires a little effort on the part of the user. Location-based MFAs look at the physical whereabouts of the device logged in from. This ensures that the computer is within a certain geographical range. Ever got an email when you’ve logged into your Netflix account on holiday? With the ubiquity of remote working, a new location won’t usually be enough to block you. Another form of identification (such as OTPs) can check that
A note on Google Authenticator, Authy, and other MFA applications
There are external apps that provide MFA solutions. Google Authenticator and Authy, for example, are free smartphone apps. These products offer a similar if not identical service. Instead of sending a text, the apps generate their own authentication codes.
What’s the difference between MFA and 2FA?
2FA (2-factor authentication) and MFA are in the most part interchangeable terms. The main difference is that 2FA restricts the number of authenticating processes to two while MFA requires at least two.