How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work?
For the average consumer, two-factor authentication is commonly used for mobile banking, utility company logins, and client portals, to name a few. A more advanced multi-level security measure called multi-factor authentication (MFA) is designed to protect consumers and businesses while rejecting unwanted perpetrators. Multi-factor authentication is a layered defense system established to ensure digital users are who they say they are. This security measure requires more than two pieces of evidence to prove identity, and each piece of evidence must derive from one of several categories: what a user knows, what a user owns, or what a user is.
Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication
While two-factor authentication is successful from a consumer usage standpoint without becoming a burden, multi-factor authentication (MFA) takes this layered approach a step further. By using more than two identity credentials, an added layer of security supports many public sectors including fintech, healthcare, and other industries that handle sensitive user and customer data. The primary importance of MFA is that to date, it is one of the most secure methods of security that goes beyond the legacy password system that hackers can easily break.
The “password” method of security is common, but as hackers become more sophisticated the system is vulnerable. A shared or stolen password in the wrong hands leads to serious cybersecurity threats to individuals, businesses, and workers in every industry. Data shows that hackers use stolen login information more than any other tactic. Hackers find a number of easy ways to access passwords using phishing and intrusion techniques.
With the help of environmental checks, you can protect your application even outside of controlled ecosystems. As a developer, you will not always have full control over the environment your applications run in. This is why you should take steps to secure your software regardless of where it executes.
The Factors of MFA
Security has become both a comprehensive and critical requirement for every entity. Companies are migrating to multi-factor authentication to protect their environments along with that of their customers. The three primary factors of multi-factor authentication evolve around what a user knows, what a user has, and who a user is.
What A User Knows
Often this factor—what a user knows—refers to a password, and a personal identification number (PIN) may be required as well as a passphrase. This factor might also include knowledge-based security questions. While this factor is essential in multi-factor authentication, it is the most vulnerable of the three primary factors in that this information may be stolen through by perpetrators engaged in phishing or social engineering. It is an important factor but no longer stands alone.
What A User Has
This factor—what a user has—confirms that a user is in possession of a unique item such as a token, mobile device, smart card, or key fob, etc. The way this authentication factor works is via confirmation either from a mobile app, a computer pop-up, the generation of a unique token-based code, or via a card insertion.
What A User Is
Often called inherence, this factor—what a user is—refers to a verification through biometrics. Biometrics is defined as the body measurements and calculations that are related to human characteristics. Biometric authentication used for identification and access control is a successful organizational security measure. This factor involves the biological traits of a user.
Biometrics, or an inherence factor, verifies and confirms traits in a variety of ways and often uses readers and software to convert data digitally and then compare it depending on the application. Some factor verification methods include:
retina / iris scan
digital signature scanners
hand and earlobe geometry
These proven verification methods are popular for both consumers and business leaders alike in fighting the war on cybersecurity.
Common Inherence Factor Applications
Some of the most common inherence factor applications involve smartphones, payment devices, and criminal identification. For example, a fingerprint or facial may be used to access a modern smartphone. A consumer may need to provide a digital signature at the grocery store checkout. Today, criminals are often identified using earlobe geometry. Biometrics is one of the most advanced methods for security and identity verification.
The success of many businesses is based on their security environment, and multi-factor authentication (MFA) is trending as a top method in which entrepreneurs in every industry are protecting their assets and keeping perpetrators from getting in. A reputable security provider is key for both on-premise and cloud-based security environments as technology continues to advance.