Do You Need Multi-Factor Authentication?

Do You Need MFA

One of the most effective ways to protect your business from cyberattacks is through multi-factor authentication (MFA). This simple yet powerful tool adds an extra layer of protection to your accounts in the event a hacker gets a hold of your login credentials. Despite its importance, many businesses still question the necessity of MFA.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires users to provide two or more forms of identification before accessing sensitive data or networks. This can greatly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches.

For example, when you sign into your Microsoft account, it might prompt you to enter a code from a text message or app or send a push notification to your mobile phone that you must approve. This extra step ensures that even if someone has your password, they still need the second factor to access your account.

What Is the Difference Between 2FA and MFA?

Sometimes, the term 2-factor authentication (2FA) is used interchangeably with MFA. While all 2FA is a form of MFA, MFA can include additional security layers beyond 2FA. Essentially, 2FA requires two methods to prove your identity, while MFA involves two or more methods, making it generally more secure than 2FA.

Cybercriminals Are After Your Credentials

We’ve reviewed several major cybersecurity reports this year, including the Sophos 2024 and Verizon reports. The findings are clear: cyber-attacks are on the rise, and businesses are struggling to fend them off. However, 48% of small to mid-sized organizations believe their password policy is adequate.

Your credentials, such as usernames and passwords, are in high demand. Unfortunately, many businesses still use weak passwords or fail to store them securely. Even with strong passwords, additional protection is necessary.

Phishing attacks are becoming increasingly common in our email inboxes. A single click on a fraudulent link can give cybercriminals access to your credentials and accounts. If this happens, multi-factor authentication can be the difference between continuing business as usual or recovering from a costly data breach.

The Cons of Multi-Factor Authentication

Don’t let this subheading be misleading. We strongly encourage all our clients to enable MFA. However, we’re no strangers to the common objections.

“MFA is too inconvenient.”

While it does add an extra step, it typically only requires a few seconds. This minor inconvenience is a small price to pay for the added security it provides, potentially saving you from a lengthy recovery process after a breach. Cybersecurity can no longer be seen as optional; it needs to be integrated into everyday business practices.

“We have other IT projects to focus on.”

MFA is not something you want to push off. It’s relatively easy to implement, especially if you work with a dedicated IT support team or company. It could be one of the most significant cybersecurity improvements you can make on an affordable budget.

“MFA isn’t 100% perfect.”

No cybersecurity measure is perfect on its own. However, this doesn’t mean MFA shouldn’t be an essential part of your strategy. Hackers have adapted to use the same tools against us, but with proper use and knowledge, we can leverage these tools to our advantage. For instance, be wary of “MFA fatigue” attacks, where hackers bombard you with authentication requests until you accidentally approve one. Only authenticate when you’re sure it’s you.

Multi-Factor Authentication Benefits

We’ve briefly touched on some of the benefits of MFA, but some of you may need more convincing.

Less Likely to Be Hacked

The most important benefit is that you’re significantly less likely to be hacked. According to Microsoft, you’re 99% less likely to experience a breach. While some cybersecurity professionals might debate the exact statistic, it remains a powerful way to protect your business.

Adds an Extra Layer of Security

Even if your credentials, like a username or password, are hacked, MFA reduces the risk of unauthorized account access. Passwords alone aren’t enough to keep you protected, as stolen credentials are responsible for 81% of all data breaches.

Helps You Meet Compliance Requirements

MFA is increasingly required by various compliance laws. For instance, the FTC updated the Safeguards Rule to better protect U.S.-based consumers from data breaches, mandating MFA for all covered companies. Other laws, such as the NY Shield Act, GDPR, and PCI-DSS, also require data protection measures, including MFA. Additionally, MFA is often a requirement for cyber liability insurance.

Relatively Easy to Implement

If you’re working with an IT company or have a dedicated IT team, implementing MFA is easier than you think. Most platforms already include MFA capabilities, with administrators needing only to activate it. Adding users as you grow is straightforward, with plenty of vendors and authentication types to choose from.

The Different Types of MFA

When choosing which type of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is best for your business, consider a balance between usability, security, and budget. MFA works best when it is effectively implemented and used consistently. When it comes to MFA there are typically four categories.

Something You Know

This includes passwords, personal questions, and PINs. Think of it as anything you can remember and type in. Passwords are phrases you enter to gain access. Personal questions might ask for details like your mother’s maiden name, your first pet’s name, or your high school’s name. A PIN is a numeric code, often used with a card. While this method is cost-effective and easy to implement, it’s not very secure since passwords can be stolen or guessed, and personal info can be easily found online.

Something You Have

This involves physical items like smartphones, security tokens, and smart cards. For instance, your smartphone can receive SMS codes or use apps like Google Authenticator or Duo. Security tokens generate one-time passwords, and smart cards contain chips used for authentication. This type of MFA is more secure but depends on having the device with you. Losing it or having it stolen can pose security risks.

Something You Are

This refers to biometrics, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, and iris scans. Fingerprints use unique patterns on your fingers, facial recognition uses your face’s unique features, and iris scans look at the unique patterns in your eyes. Biometrics are very secure since they’re hard to fake, and they’re convenient because you don’t have to remember anything or carry a device. However, there are privacy concerns about how biometric data is collected, stored, and used.

Somewhere You Are

This involves location-based methods, like IP addresses, GPS locations, and network locations. Your current IP address can verify that you’re logging in from a familiar place. GPS data from your smartphone can confirm where you’re expected to be, and network location checks if you’re connecting from a specific network, like your company’s internal network. This adds an extra layer of security by ensuring access only from approved locations, but it can raise privacy concerns and might be tricky for frequent travelers.

Don’t let the different types of MFA overwhelm you; it doesn’t need to be complicated. The most common types used by businesses are one-time passwords or push notifications that the user can approve or deny. The success of MFA hinges on users understanding how to use it properly and implementing it consistently across all essential systems and applications to prevent any security vulnerabilities.

Navigating the New Normal

MFA is here to stay. Pretending it doesn’t exist or ignoring the advice of your IT and Cybersecurity team will not benefit you in the long run. Even our personal email accounts and social media accounts require it, and for good reason.

Interestingly, larger organizations are catching on. A recent KnowBe4 survey revealed that only 38% of large organizations neglect to use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for securing user accounts. On the other side, a much higher proportion, 62%, of small to mid-sized organizations do not implement MFA.

We still have a long way to go in educating businesses about the real risks of operating online. Cybercriminals are constantly seeking quick paydays, and small businesses that haven’t kept up with cybersecurity recommendations are easy targets.

Need Help Setting Up MFA For Your Business?

We don’t want to see any hardworking business deal with the consequences of a breach because they neglected something so simple. At the very least, your admins should be using it. We have seen it firsthand: a client gets hacked only to find out MFA was never implemented and could have prevented it. Don’t wait until the damage is done. We are encouraging all our clients to embrace it. If you need help setting up MFA, contact Just Solutions today.