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What is MFA and How Does it Benefit Users? A Complete Guide

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In this modern age, we leave the most essential bits and pieces of ourselves online, in the form of data.

All this sensitive data is usually protected by a password- which is quite possibly the most popular security measure available to the majority of users. However, with ‘123456’ and ‘password’ being the most common choices in 2022, the security that passwords offer leaves a lot to be desired.

Moreover, passwords are the leading cause of data breaches and identity thefts. Mainly because the password serves as an inefficient barrier between your data and any potential threats that it faces. It is all too easy to break into an account that is password protected. All you need is necessary computing skills and a good game of guess, and boom! You’re in.

Due to the many shortcomings of password authentication, many people and companies and users are turning to multifactor authentication or MFA. It is because it provides a much more secure alternative to the hassle provided by passwords.

Mentioned below in this article is everything you need to know about multifactor authentication. From the basic design of MFA to the multitude of benefits has to offer, we’ve got you covered.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Before you go frolicking around town deleting all your passwords, you need to have a clear understanding of what multifactor authentication is.

Well to simplify, multifactor authentication is the process of identifying and verifying a user by validating two or more claims presented by them. Each of the applications is based on various factors.

Multi-Factor Authentication is based on the basic principle that all authentication factors, such as passwords, have shortcomings and that no authentication method is perfect. If two are more factors are implemented, they will work together to compensate for each other’s weaknesses to provide a much more secure authentication system.

Multi-Factor Authentication integrates the following key elements:

  • A password or PIN (i.e., information that the user knows)
  • A mobile device (i.e., a device belonging to the user)
  • A fingerprint or voice recognition (i.e., a specific trait belonging to the user)

If you find the term ‘Multi-Factor Authentication to be unfamiliar, chances are you’ve probably heard it being used as ‘2-factor authentication or ‘2 step authentication.’

Why is Multi-Factor Authentication necessary?

Up till now, you’ve familiarized yourself with the fundamentals of Multi-Factor Authentication. An obvious question lurking around in the chamber of your mind might be, “What on earth is all the fuss about?”

Well, to have a better grasp of the impact that multifactor authentication will have over time; you need to get your creative juices running.

Imagine a house, in the middle of nowhere, vulnerable to all sorts of threats- from burglars to psychopathic serial killers. If you’re a responsible homeowner, you will try your best to secure your home as much as possible.

However, securing your personal information with a single 8-10 digit password is quite similar to securing all the doors in your make-believe house with locks. But leaving the windows wide open, inviting dangers of all sorts into the home.

Keeping this in mind, it is crucial that users integrate Multi-factor authentication into the security measures taken to ensure the safety of the data present online.

How does Multi-Factor Authentication benefit users?

As mentioned above, Multi-Factor Authentication reaps a lot of benefits to users, out of which the most obvious is heightened security.

Some other fruitful advantages of using Multi-Factor Authentication include:

  • Makes the login process easy.
  • Strengthens and promotes security.
  • Prevents identity and password theft.
  • Invokes and promotes compliance.

1- Makes the login process smooth and straightforward:

The name ‘Multi-Factor Authentication’ points towards an exaggerated and complicated process that would give you a headache as you try to log into your accounts.

On the contrary, however, this could not be further from the truth.

Along with the added security measures that MFA provides, it also makes the login process much more user-friendly than traditional password protection.

One way in which Multi-Factor Authentication simplifies the login process is by providing advanced choices like single sign-on.

Single sign-on works by verifying the identity of the user through multifactor authentication. Once the login process is successful, users have access to all the apps that fall under the single sign-on software, without having to log into each of the apps individually.

The fact is that logging into all of the many accounts we have separately is a tiresome feat. Combining Multi-Factor Authentication with single sign-on software speaks volumes about the practicality that MFA has to offer since it makes the login process easier for everybody.

2- Strengthens and promotes security:

The fundamental that Multi-Factor was established on allows the security measures put in place to overcome any weakness or vulnerability present in one security factor.

The inclusion of other authentication factors is a massive step towards improving cyber-security and to prevent various forms of cyber-crimes, such as social engineering attacks.

Moreover, the application of Multi-Factor authentication will allow users more control over the factors they utilize to protect their accounts.

One way in which various factors can have practical applications is by altering the security measures in your favor.

 An example of this can be seen when the user changes the security measure of a password or PIN, by adding an alternative that is not as easy to guess.

Multi-Factor authentication also provides a barrier to hackers, by providing multiple effective layers of protection. Unless a hacker or cyber-criminal knows about all of your security factors, gaining entry to any of your account is an arduous task.

3- Prevents identity and password theft:

Perhaps one of the most significant drawbacks of password-based authentication is that they play a pivotal role in the millions of identities being stolen.

Identity theft is a crime that profits the hackers, with minimal risk to it. It is growing at a rapid pace and is much more profitable than any drug-related crime.

Most often than not, hackers steal identities quite easily and then proceed to sell the stolen information on the online black market.

In addition to that, password and identity theft is rapidly evolving. Hackers are now integrating keylogging, phishing attacks, and pharming into their thievery.

The sensitive information that a cyber-criminal then steals can be manipulated in a variety of ways. The most common ways in which a user’s personal data is corrupted is by destroying it or using it to spread religious or political propaganda.

Multi-Factor authentication, as mentioned above, minimizes the risk of identity and password theft. It depends on multiple factors and layers of security measures to safeguard the user’s identity.

4-Invokes and promotes compliance:

The proper use of Multi-Factor authentication is also a gigantic leap in the path towards compliance.

Many federal, state and governmental compliance standards urge organizations to utilize multifactor authentication for certain security situations.

This means that many more organizations will now follow the updated guidelines on the use of MFA. Hence promoting a much more secure environment for organizations and companies to grow and foster in.

As a byproduct to the implementation of MFA, organizations will increase their compliance with the goal of increasing security in mind.

So, where do you go from here?

Now that you know all there is to know about Multi-Factor Authentication and the many benefits it has, all that there’s left to do is to implement in your security habits as much as you can.

However, it can be said that with the pace that MFA is expanding. It will soon be a primary source of safeguarding our data online. Until then all we can do is be cautious and wait.

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Waqas is a cybersecurity journalist and writer who has a knack for writing technology and online privacy-focused articles. He strives to help achieve a secure online environment and is skilled in writing topics related to cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, Cloud security, and a lot more. As seen in: Computer.org, Nordic APIs, Infosecinstitute.com, Tripwire.com, and VentureBeat.

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