MFA is an authentication method that provides user access after verifying user identity through multiple factors. These include passwords, security questions, location, tokens, biometric data, and more. MFA improves the security posture of organizations, compared to the more common single authentication method, through passwords alone. This blog post will explain the factor types used by MFA, detail its advantages and end with how MFA can complement zero trust, for enhanced internal and external network security.
What is MFA?
MFA, multi-factor authentication, is a digital authentication method based on two or more verification factors from the user. After verifying user and device identity through multiple factors, the user is granted access to the app, asset, or network.
MFA replaces the single factor authentication method, usually a username and password, which is easier to crack through techniques like brute force attacks or phishing scams. As a result, MFA security solutions provide better security protection and reduce the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches.
2FA, two-factor authentication, is a type of MFA. In 2FA, two verification factors are required for access.
MFA Factor Types
There are multiple types of verification factors:
1. Verification Factors Based on User Knowledge
The first type of verification and authentication factor is based on what the user knows. These often include a password or answers to personal security questions. This is the most basic verification factor.
2. Verification Factors Based on User Possession
The second type is based on what the user has. These include tokens, certificates, OTPs, USB devices, and more. Sometimes, verification of this factor is transparent to the user, like in the case of certificates. Other times, additional communication means are used for this authentication method, like when sending a verification code through an SMS.
3. Verification Factors Based on User Inherence
The third type, inherence, is based on what the user is. These factors include biometric data, behavior analysis and keystroke dynamics. These factors are very hard to replicate maliciously through bots, as they are unique to each person.
4. Verification Factors Based on Location
A silent verification method, the location of the user is used to verify identity, based on IP and/or additional location data. The location can be used as a verification/blocking factor, or to alert about the need for another verification factor, in the case of an anomaly.
4 MFA Benefits
MFA is a secure authentication method that reduces the risk of online identity theft, fraud and data breaches. According to Microsoft, MFA can block over 99.9%(!) of account compromise attacks.
Passwords alone aren’t enough, as exemplified in the case of SolarWinds (and many others). Therefore, MFA ensures that only a cracked password will not enable attacker access into networks. Instead, an extra protection layer is added, by requiring additional factors to enable network or VPN access, on top of the password.
2. MFA Setup is Easy
MFA setup methods are usually easy to implement and have no impact on the network architecture. While MFA does cause some user friction, the user experience overall is considered friendly, quick, and easy to follow.
3. Complies with Regulatory Requirements
MFA compiles with various security regulations. Therefore, it could be a prerequisite before working with certain organizations. It could also be a requirement from other organizations, who count on regulations when selecting their providers.
4. Complements Zero Trust
MFA is a powerful security method at the network entry-point. However, it does not guarantee 100% protection from cyber attacks and threats like malware. Therefore, MFA is a good solution for complementing zero trust, which protects the network from internal threats. Zero trust authenticates any device and user even when they’re inside the network, and provides access only after verification, every single time. Read more about zero trust here.
Implementing MFA and Zero Trust with Cyolo
Cyolo is a Zero Trust Security solution that keeps users securely connected from everywhere. Cyolo uses user and device ID, MFA and biometric authentication to verify access to apps, resources, workstations, servers & files. In the network, Cyolo continuously validates each user and device before providing access in the network. Cyolo takes minutes to implement and is compatible with any network topology and identity infrastructure. In addition, Cyolo does not have access to the organization data. Not only does this ensure true privacy and security, it also improves performance as a better user experience. Request a demo to learn more.