4 Examples of Multi-Factor Authentication in Action

A person using multi-factor authentication to log into their mobile device

There’s a high possibility that you’ve used multi-factor authentication (MFA) at some point throughout your life. MFA is a verification method that requires users to confirm their identity through various authentication measures.

Small businesses are increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks due to the culmination of weak computer networks and security. Cyber criminals exploit that vulnerability to steal personal information and identities for personal gain.

So how exactly does multi-factor authentication work, and why is it considered one of the best forms of IT security? Throughout this article, we’ll dive deeper into MFA and provide specific examples of common uses in our daily life.

How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work?

With continued advancements in technology, “username and password” are no longer adequate measures to ensure someone’s identity. By using an authentication process, small businesses can help verify their employees’ identities before granting them access to business accounts or software. MFA doubles down on the information required to access critical data, which helps protect against cyber-attacks.

There are four factors used when establishing identity:

  • What the user has
  • What the user knows
  • Who the user is
  • Where the user is

Security levels increase when combining two or more of the factors above:

  • Two-factor identification (2FA) uses two factors
  • Multi-factor identification (MFA) uses two or more factors
  • Four-factor identification (4FA) uses all four factors

The Importance of Multi-Factor Authentication

While two-factor authentication may be more manageable for the everyday user, the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks reinforces how crucial it is to enforce proper authentication measures for maximum protection.

The level of security you implement varies depending on your specific industry. If you’re in need of a high form of protection, 4FA is most likely your best bet when protecting your assets. For most small businesses, MFA is a reliable and effective authentication method.

It’s important to remember that no matter what authentication method your business chooses, it’s impossible to be completely impervious to phishing scams. Unfortunately, hackers know how to trick even the most sophisticated users into providing personal information and passwords. That’s why extensive employee education and training is an invaluable tool in your business’s security arsenal. By understanding the tricks hackers use and knowing what to look out for, you can protect yourself from these malicious phishing scams.

Varying the authentication factors that you choose is the best way to ensure overall safety and protection. Our team advises selecting a distinct element from at least two of the following authentication factors.

4 Examples of Multi-Factor Authentication

There are four main types of authentication factors that organizations use today:

Identification Through What the User Possesses

This method uses physical assets or information explicitly sent to users. It’s an effective way to prove identity, so long as users don’t respond to phishing scams. Here are some specific examples:

  • A code sent via SMS text message
  • One-Time Password Tokens (OTP) sent via email
  • Smart cards, Bluetooth, or USB tokens

Identification Through What the User Knows

This method, in particular, has been used as a common authentication step for quite some time. Unfortunately, it’s quite dangerous to use this step alone as this information can be the easiest to hack. Not only do users routinely recycle their passwords, but they also use information that cyber criminals can easily find via social media accounts and public records. Here are three common identifiers:

  • Passwords
  • PINs
  • Answers to personal/sensitive security questions

Identification Through Who the User Is

This level of identification requires your biometric data, which takes a technological leap in verifying identity, and is therefore quite difficult to forge or replicate. Some common examples include:

  • Facial or voice recognition
  • Retina scanning
  • Fingerprints
  • Signature

Identification Through Where the User Is Located

This factor is called adaptive authentication and is the newest, most sophisticated method as it incorporates location, time, or behavior. By utilizing AI and GPS, this method can pinpoint a user’s exact location or predicted activities to calculate a risk level. Here are examples of Adaptive Authentication:

  • Is the access originating from a known and established location, like a home or office space?
  • Is the time of the access sensible and accredited? Access requested during the middle of the night could be considered suspicious.
  • Is the access requested from an unknown device?
  • Is the respective user switching from a private to a public network?

How Can Your Small Business Implement MFA?

As a society, we severely underestimate cybersecurity vulnerabilities that often lead to downtime, financial loss, and even business closure. Unfortunately, cybercrime and security breaches come in many forms, making it pertinent to have a structured and precise security policy.

Prevention of cyber attacks and dependable security maintenance should be all employers’ top priority. Cybercriminals are continually advancing their attack methods, finding new and improved ways to capitalize on employee errors. This is important to recognize because most cyber-related incidents are caused not by a lack of basic IT measures but by a lack of employee security awareness.

By having a cybersecurity policy in place and implementing an ongoing training process, you’re aiding in the overall company awareness of good cyber hygiene. While seeking to prevent these security incidents is critical, it’s essential to prepare for any future cyber breaches. Thankfully, our team here at Parried has compiled an extensive cybersecurity checklist that will sequentially help your company survive potential future attacks.