Multi-Factor Authentication — A Beginner’s Guide

For IT professionals and consumers alike, security can be a headache. Tens of thousands of websites today store passwords and login credentials for consumers. The risk of data theft is therefore always ongoing.

Attackers are always searching for weak passwords to easily hack the accounts of consumers. We often mix complexity and security to address this problem.

It should not be like that. Always remember that complexity impacts consumer retention. Which, of course, you do not want to happen.

So, is there a solution where our process remains simple and at the same time secure? The answer is multi-factor authentication.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA or Multi-Factor Authentication is a feature widely used by companies to ensure that consumers are actually who they say they are on their websites.

It is done by providing at least two pieces of proof or evidence to state their identity. Now, these pieces of evidence must come from a different category, like say:

  • Something only they would know.
  • Something that only they possess.
  • Something that they are.

This is MFA because, if one of the factors is hacked by the aggressor or unregulated user, there is a rather low chance that another factor will also be compromised. MFA therefore requires multiple factors of authentication and it provides the consumer’s identity data with greater safety.

Why MFA is So Important

Passwords may remain the supreme and the most common authentication method of your online identity but believe me; they provide very little protection. Consumers often make it simple for the attacker to steal their credentials by choosing weak passwords or using the same passwords for multiple applications.

As I mentioned above, with a huge number of websites and web portals comes a considerable number of consumer accounts and passwords. One of the biggest problems with traditional user ID and password is that they require password database maintenance.

The attacker has access to any details such as the geographical locations, consumers’ interests, transaction pattern, etc, if the database is captured. It does not matter whether or not they are encrypted.

That is why it becomes imperative to use multi-factor authentication, which means, even if the attacker gets access to the database, they still need to pass other security checks.

How is MFA Useful for Businesses

There are typically three primary reasons for which MFA becomes quite enhance the consumer experience in B2B SaaS and they are as follows:

  1. Security: The primary benefit of multi-factor authentication is that it provides security by adding protection in layers. The more layers/factors in place, the more the risk of an intruder gaining access to critical systems and data is reduced.
  2. Compliance: Almost every organization has some level of local, state, or federal compliance to which they must adhere. Multi-factor authentication can achieve the necessary compliance requirements specific to your organization, which will mitigate audit findings and avoid potential fines.
  3. Increase flexibility and productivity: Finally, removing the burden of passwords by replacing them with alternatives can increase productivity and bring a better usability experience due to the increased flexibility of factor types. There could even be an opportunity for a potential reduction in operational costs in the right environment and situation.

These are three main reasons which are most relevant to explain how and why MFA is important to businesses to implement.

Now that you’ve learned why MFA is critical, you may be keen to know how this feature works and how you can implement it.

How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work

Multi-factor authentication, as the name suggests, for authentication requires multiple verification information. One of the most common factors that are widely used is OTP-based authentication. OTP or one-time passwords are 4–6 digit codes you will receive via SMS and work as a one-time entry token. It is generated periodically whenever an authentication request is made.

There are mainly three methods on which MFA authentication heavily relies, and those are:

  1. Things you know (knowledge): This method involves questions which only you can answer. For example: What is your mother’s maiden name? Or what is your child’s name? The purpose is to verify your identity via these questions because you are the only one who can answer these.
  2. Things you have (possession): This method involves verification from the things you have or possess, such as a mobile phone. A verification notification will be sent to your phone screen, and when you allow it from that screen only, you will be able to log-in to your account. Gmail is extensively using this feature.
  3. Things you are (inheritance): A fingerprint commonly verifies this factor. We also see verification being done by retinal scan. The purpose of this method is clear — only you can have your fingerprint, not anyone else.

How to Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Now that you have read all the benefits of using a phone login and you are planning to implement it for your business, your first question will be, “How can I implement MFA on my website.” Right ??

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

There are multiple ways to implement multifactor authentication. Let’s get to them one by one.

  1. Short Message Service (SMS): This process is completed by involving a short message service known as SMS and triggered at the login stages. When a user registers on a website along with the credentials, they are prompted to provide a valid phone number on which a verification SMS can be sent. Once the phone number is set up and verified, they need to go through an additional identity check where an SMS will be sent to their verified phone whenever they log in to the website.
  2. Electronic mail: In this process, when a user logs into the website with their credentials, a unique one-time code will be generated and sent to the user to their registered email address. The user will pick the code from the email and enter it into the webpage or app. In this way, the user will be verified.
  3. Push notification: In this process, when a user logs into the website with their credentials, a push notification is sent to the user’s phone, which contains your business app. This notification generally appears on the main screen, and once the user confirms access from that screen, they will be logged in to their account automatically.

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about applying a simple approach of using Multi-factor authentication on websites and how it will enhance businesses. This feature increases the consumer’s account safety. Finally, before implementing any functionality on your website, analyze and consider the pros and cons from every possible angle.

Cheers!

Originally published at: https://www.loginradius.com/

CyberSecurity Enthusiast, interested in latest digital trends, reader, hiker. I’m available at https://www.quora.com/profile/Laura-Nutt-5