What Is Multifactor Authentication and How Can It Protect Your Business?

One way hackers and other cybercriminals steal data and cause damage to individuals and businesses is figuring out passwords. Everyone has usernames and passwords for nearly everything they do, but unfortunately, most are quite easy to figure out or hack. That’s where multifactor authentication (MFA) comes in.

What is multifactor authentication? Sometimes called “two-step verification,” MFA is designed to make it more difficult for an unauthorized person to get into an account. It does this by requiring more than just a username and password.

When talking about cybersecurity, a “factor” is something that can confirm your identity when you try to sign in. Generally, there are three kinds of factors:

  • Something you know: This is usually something you’ve memorized, like your password or your PIN. Most websites, applications, and other tools require at least this factor to log in. You probably have numerous passwords or PINs for everything, from logging into your computer to accessing your bank account.
  • Something you are: This typically refers to using biometric data, such as a fingerprint scanner or facial recognition. For instance, a lot of people log into their phones with their face or their finger.
  • Something you have: A physical object can serve as an authentication factor. For instance, it’s possible to use your smartphone to unlock your computer. You may also use a specific USB key to allow you to log in.

What multifactor authentication means is that at least two factors are needed to successfully log in. This may refer to two types of factors (such as a password and a fingerprint scan) or two factors of the same type (such as a password and a PIN).

This concept isn’t only used in computing. For instance, you likely can’t get money from a bank machine without your physical card and your PIN. Those are two factors required for accessing your account.

Why Does Multifactor Authentication Increase Security?

As mentioned, most passwords are ineffective at preventing hackers from guessing or cracking them because most people make their passwords short or memorable in an effort to memorize them. Unfortunately, that leaves you vulnerable to criminals.

A lot of people use the same login ID (usually their email address) and password for numerous sites and apps, which compounds the problem and weakens security. If your credentials for one site are stolen or leaked, then these details may be used to log in elsewhere.

However, even choosing long, unique passwords for every site isn’t completely secure, since hackers can run scripts that allow them to try various combinations until they get in.

A great way to improve your security and make it significantly tougher for anyone to gain unauthorized access to your account is to use MFA. With this in place, someone who knows or guesses your password won’t be able to log in without another authentication factor.

How Do You Use Multifactor Authentication?

Now that you know why MFA improves security, you need to know how to actually use it. The good news is that it’s simple. Once you enable MFA on your account, you’ll be prompted to set up a second factor. In some cases, this may be a numeric code sent to you through a text or email message. You receive this one-time code, enter it, and you’re in. Logging in requires two factors: your password and the code you received via text.

Another common form of MFA uses an authenticator app, such as Microsoft Authenticator. These apps create unique six-digit numbers every 30 seconds and only the most recent can be used to log in. This protects your security, since a hacker would need to have access to your phone at the moment they want to log in. Having an older code won’t help.

Using MFA with Microsoft 365 to Protect Your Business

Microsoft 365 incorporates multifactor authentication, meaning you can use it to secure your work and your account. This is incredibly important, since compromised passwords are one of the most common ways that criminals steal data, harm businesses, and extort companies for ransom.

You don’t want your email, work files, cloud storage, identity, or other important business data falling into the wrong hands. You also don’t want to deal with the stress and hassle of trying to recover from being hacked. This may cost you and your business dearly.

The good news is that it’s easy to use MFA with Microsoft 365. Once the feature is turned on, you’ll be asked to verify your identity using an authenticator app the first time you log in. Open the authenticator app on your smartphone, enter the dynamically created six-digit number it creates for your account, and you’re in! Having this second factor drastically improves your security without making it much more difficult to log in.

With Microsoft 365, you’ll typically only be asked to verify with a second factor when you log in on a new device or after you’ve changed your password. In most other cases, you’ll be able to get into your account with your login and password. The system works this way because, generally, a hacker who is trying to gain unauthorized access to your account will be doing so from a different device than you usually use.

Keeping accounts secure with MFA is important for both employees and the companies they work for. Individual employees don’t want their personal data stolen, leaked, or otherwise used against them. Companies don’t want to deal with the financial, business, and reputational costs of a cyberattack. Unfortunately, many companies hit by cyberattacks do not recover.

If everyone works together and does what they can to keep their accounts secure, daily activities become easier and you avoid these potentially significant issues. Correctly using multifactor authentication keeps hackers out, prevents your data from falling into the wrong hands, and protects the entire company.

To learn more about how you can prevent cyberattacks, visit https://apticallc.com today.

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