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Multi-Factor Authentication: Explained

By:Christine Fettinger

Acceptance is the first step towards utilizing MFA security layers (Multi-Factor Authentication). The term MFA employs two or more of the three factors of authentication. Therefore, applying the same categories does not establish MFA.

In spite of HeartBleed it should be no surprise that an increase of security threats is among us. To help decrease threats consider the three categories:

  • Knowledge “Something you know”
  • Possession “Something you have”
  • Inheritance “Something you are”

Often change can become burdensome, slow, and even a hassle. Designing a policy that justifies these changes will help alleviate these concerns.

The other side of the spectrum is the cost of implementing these categories on your network. Purchasing such technologies from a third-party vendor can become costly due to publishing and licensing fees. Assigning MFA tokens, certificates, and biometric devices are also chargers to consider. Is your business worth it?

Knowledge “Something you know”

Accessing any account requires credentials by registering a unique username and password. Creating a strong password is still recommended.

Strong Password – Consisting of at least six characters that contain a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols if allowed. Case-sensitive letters along with passwords that do not contain words that can be found in a dictionary.
However, even strong passwords we use today lack credibility in the security world, thus introducing two-factor authentication (2FA).

Possession “Something you have”

  • Tokens
  • Magnetic stripe cards
  • Smartcards
  • Mobile Phones

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is also known as two-step verification. To adhere to the increased demand for security we must be accustomed with 2FA.

2FA enabled accounts typically send an activation token via SMS to a mobile device, then it generates a one time PIN for verification.

Take an initiative as existing accounts in your company portfolio might have 2FA. Check your vendor here with this 2FA authentication list.

Most financial institutions have adopted this method. Currently 2FA is widely integrated with strong passwords. Purchasing a third-party 2FA in your company will yield greater security benefits.

Inheritance “Something you are”

  • Fingerprints
  • Voice
  • Retina
  • Iris
  • Signature
  • Vein
  • Hand geometry

The list will continue to grow as biometric verification relies on distinct physical charateristics to access their device. Fingerprints have been the most common method of biometrics.

Adding an extra layer of biometric security may prove useful. Enforcing another barrier reduces the risk of intrusion by detering attackers.

The field of biometrics is still evolving due to adoption costs and security concerns. Despite these flaws experts believe that biometrics will play a critical role in the future of computers.

Beyond MFA

Perhaps your business or vendor might already have these categories in place. If so it should be applied immediately. There are many variables to consider when implementing an MFA. The dynamics of your business will be a factor in determining which categories to employ.

To reach an expert on MFA contact a CyberStreams IT Consultant.