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What is multi-factor authentication (MFA)?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one of the key lines of cybersecurity defence that you can implement to protect your firm from cyber criminals. But what exactly is it, why is it so important and does it really work?

What is multi-factor authentication?
Every time you log into a computer resource, including a network, device or application, authentication is always required. You are required to provide the resource with the identity by which it knows you as well as evidence that identity is authentic.

Basic authentication usually only requires one item of evidence (referred to as a ‘factor’) and that is typically a password.

Multi-factor authentication, on the other hand, is exactly what it says on the tin. It is an electronic authentication method that requires more than one factor as evidence. It will only allow you to access an application, online portal or website when you are able to successfully input two or more items of evidence to an authentication mechanism.

These authentication factors, are split into three distinct areas as follows:

Knowledge factor: perhaps the first type of authentication that springs to mind, this factor utilises something that only the person logging on has such as personal information that is unique to them. The user will be asked a personal security question or set of questions and only they should know they answer. This will typically be in the form of a password, pin number or one-time password.

Possession factor: in order to log in using this type of authentication the user will require a physical possession such as key fob, badge, token or subscriber identity module (SIM). This is something only the user has. Mobile authentication is a widely used possession factor that you will probably be very familiar with. Typically, you will receive a code sent to your smartphone that will then grant you access once you input it to the platform or app you wish to open.

Inherence factor: using something that the user is, this factor works by harnessing biometric data including a fingerprint scan, facial recognition, retina or iris scan, voice authentication or a digital signature scanner. Chances are you’re already using inherence factor authentication multiple times a day when you go to unlock your mobile phone and if facial recognition isn’t working because you have a face mask on you will have to revert to a six-digit PIN. Cybersecurity is all around and we often don’t even notice it in action.

Why is multi-factor authentication so important?

Data is king. It is an inextricable and essential part of daily life. Without it we wouldn’t be able to do business or function in the way we have become accustomed to in this digital age. As such, we need to protect our data, both corporate and personal, to the very best of our abilities and capabilities. This is why it’s so important.

Multi-factor authentication is specifically designed to protect user data. It is a proven and highly effective way of preventing your personal identification or financial assets from cybercriminals, hackers or scammers. If you only have a single password in place, chances are a cybercriminal will have a way of cracking it. You’d be amazed at how fast they can do this and gain access to private and confidential information. Be it banking details or a client’s address, such sensitive data in the hands of criminals can be truly devastating.

By implementing multi-factor authentication, you are essentially building a series of brick walls in the form of factors, factors that the cybercriminal will be unlikely to be able to provide for access. If they are not able to supply all of the components, or they miss one out or answer incorrectly, access will be denied, and your data will remain safe and secure.

Time and effort very well spent
It might seem like a hassle to set up multi-factor authentication and you may also be worried about being able to remember each step but, rest assured, it is time and effort very well spent to do so. And there are lots of ways in which you can learn how to recall steps and passwords, we have a few top tips we’re only too happy to share.

If you’re struggling to implement multi-factor authentication effectively or you have any questions or queries about how to go about it or whether you’re doing it right, the etiCloud team is always here to help. Please feel free to give us a call on 0333 358 2222 or drop us an email – it could be the best call or email you ever send.

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