Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Has ‘Graduated’ to Must-Have

Increased hacking, phishing schemes, and costly ransomware events have pushed multi-factor authentication into the category of "must-have."

The internet is a vast and powerful place. It is constantly fueling innovation and bringing the world together. Even so, cybersecurity remains a persistent and growing concern for internet users (which is nearly everyone, at this point). This perfect storm of use and risk is pushing multi-factor authentication (MFA) into the spotlight.

The Rising Threat of Cyber Crime

Cybercrime is up. It’s a fact, and it’s serious. Aite Novarica reported that, in 2020, 47% of Americans surveyed claimed that they had experienced financial identity theft.

Since then, the FBI released data stating that its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) had received a staggering 847,376 complaints in 2021 — a 7% increase from the year before.

Everywhere you turn, cybercrime is on the rise. The number of instances is increasing, often thanks to circumstances, such as the coronavirus pandemic and the growth of remote work.

In addition, hackers continue to perfect their abilities. That leaves those striving to protect data to respond by increasing their security protocols.

Basic Security Protocols Aren’t Enough

Up until now, data security has often boiled down to basic activities. The most common of these was setting a single password.

In the past, the debate typically focused on how strong a password was — and that’s an important starting point. The problem is that security measures often didn’t go further than a single strong password. Occasionally, other things might add to the mix.

For instance, many have stressed data hygiene and the need for clean data as important cybersecurity activities, as well. AccuData defines “clean data” as “data containing errors, whether it’s outdated, incomplete, duplicated, or simply incorrect.”

While keeping clean data and strong passwords is good, though, it isn’t enough anymore.

Basic protections, such as these, used to be sufficient for the majority of cases. But the growing rate of cybercrime is pushing individuals and businesses alike to adopt more stringent measures.

As the need for larger quantities of digitized personal data grows, the online world needs a stronger firewall to protect against things like account takeovers and credential stuffing. That’s where multi-factor authentication is making a difference.

Multi-Factor Authentication Is a Growing Solution

Most consumers (and many business owners, too) are familiar with the concept of two-factor authentication. But what about multi-factor authentication?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) takes place when security measures require an individual to prove their identity through one or more sources of validation. The nuance comes through what those forms of validation are.

For instance, IdP (identity provider) platform Okta outlines three MFA categories:

  • Knowledge-Based Factors: These are things such as passwords, PINs, and security questions.
    • These are the easiest to compromise and the lowest form of MFA security.
  • Possession-Based Factors: This includes physical possessions, such as a credit card or mobile phone.
    • While easier to protect than knowledge-based factors, there is still the potential to lose a possession.
  • Inherence Factors: These are elite MFA validation techniques and include biometric options such as fingerprints and voice recognition.

Along with the variety of forms that MFA can take, it can also be present in any number of levels.

For example, a single fingerprint might be a strong enough form of MFA to validate a certain interaction. Other cases might require a trio of a strong password, mobile push notification, and facial recognition.

The ability to scale both the complexity and number of requirements makes MFA an adaptive and powerful solution for both individuals and businesses looking to preserve and protect their data.

In fact, it’s worth noting that there are times when MFA is so effective that it removes the need for a password entirely. This is commonly referred to as FIDO2.0 or “passwordless” authentication.

If a combination, like a fingerprint and location tracking, is strong enough, an individual may not need to ponderously plug in a password to get into an application. This gives MFA the potential to streamline rather than complicate certain data security measures.

Our World Is Graduating to Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication has been around for a while now. But the growing needs of the data-driven world are rapidly turning it from a luxury to a necessity.

The ability to set up strong security is a priceless benefit for IAM (Identity and Access Management). It delivers a tremendous sense of security to a company or an individual’s operations.

In addition, MFA can help organizations meet increasingly stricter data privacy regulations. As governing entities strive to increase the protection of society through more sophisticated legal hurdles, MFA enables companies to adapt and keep up with the change.

As cybersecurity continues to claim a critical place in our daily lives, it’s important for everyone to recognize the fact that more advanced protection measures, such as multi-factor authentication, aren’t just a perk. At this point, they’ve become a necessity.

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