Understanding Multi-Factor Authentication:
What it is and why you probably need it
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security feature now commonly seen in the banking and online services sectors. However, it is becoming a valuable cyber security measure for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Its adoption in the high-security industries highlights its effectiveness, underscoring its potential as a simple yet powerful tool for SMEs in Australia.
In this article we look at why small to medium business should implement MFA and how to do this.
What is Multi-Factor Authentication?
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security process that enhances protection by requiring multiple forms of verification before granting access to a system, account, or device. It involves the use of two or more distinct validation methods from different categories:
- Something You Know: This is the most familiar form of authentication, typically a password or PIN. It’s a piece of information that only the user should know.
- Something You Have: This involves something physically in the user’s possession, like a smartphone, a security token, or a key fob. An everyday example is receiving a one-time passcode (OTP) via SMS on your mobile phone when logging into an online account.
- Something You Are: This refers to biometric methods of identification, such as fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, or retina scans. These are becoming more common in everyday devices, like unlocking your smartphone with your fingerprint or face.
This multi-layered approach significantly increases security. By requiring multiple proofs of identity, MFA makes it much harder for unauthorised individuals to breach a system. Even if one factor, like a password, is compromised, the additional factors provide a safety net.
What are some examples of MFA?
Most of us have used MFA in some form. This may have included:
- Online Banking: When logging into an online banking account, you may be asked to enter a password (something you know) and then verify your identity with a code sent to your phone (something you have).
- Online Accounts: Setting up or logging into accounts on platforms like LinkedIn or SaaS products may involve MFA. After entering your password, you might be prompted to enter a code from an authentication app linked to your account. You can often opt to also set this up for an extra layer of security.
- Email Services: Services like Gmail and Outlook support MFA, often prompting you for a second form of verification, like a text message or an authentication app, especially when logging in from a new device.
- Workplace Security: Many workplaces now require employees to use a badge (something they have) along with a PIN or password (something they know) to access sensitive systems or physical locations.
- Payment Applications: Apps like PayPal or Apple Pay may require biometric verification (something you are) in addition to a password or PIN for transactions.
MFA’s application in these everyday scenarios illustrates its effectiveness and accessibility, making it an ideal security solution for SMEs seeking to protect their digital assets without overcomplicating the user experience.
Why is MFA Important for Your Business?
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) offers numerous benefits to enhance the security and integrity of a business. This includes:
- Enhanced Security: MFA introduces an additional security layer, reinforcing your defences. If a password is breached, MFA still stands guard, ensuring critical business information remains secure.
- Compliance with Regulations: Various industries, especially those handling sensitive data like finance and healthcare, often have regulations mandating the use of MFA. By adopting MFA, your business not only meets these legal requirements but also upholds high data protection standards.
- Boosting Customer Confidence: In an era where data security is a top concern, implementing MFA can significantly boost your customers’ trust. It shows that you take data protection seriously, enhancing your business’s credibility.
- Minimising Fraud and Identity Theft Risks: MFA effectively reduces the risk of identity theft and fraud. It counters the vulnerabilities of password-only security, making unauthorised access considerably more challenging.
- Flexibility and Customisation: One of the great advantages of MFA is its adaptability. It allows you to tailor security measures to fit your business’s specific needs, whether that’s biometrics for critical areas or mobile-based authentication for remote access.
Implementing MFA in SME Operations
Incorporating Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) into the daily routines of a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) is simpler than it might appear. A great starting point is the everyday process of logging into company computers. By adding MFA, SMEs can significantly enhance the security of this fundamental activity. This section will highlight simple ways SMEs can integrate MFA into their regular business practices, transforming routine tasks like computer access into secure operations, while maintaining ease of use and minimal disruption.
- Computer and Network Access: SMEs can use MFA to secure computer and network logins. This involves a password plus a second factor like a security token or an OTP on a mobile device. This method ensures that even if a password is compromised, the system remains secure.
- CRM System Security: To protect customer data in CRM systems, MFA can be implemented. This might include a regular password plus biometric verification (like a fingerprint or facial recognition), ensuring that only authorised staff can access sensitive customer information.
- Financial Transactions and Payroll: MFA can safeguard online financial processes and payroll systems in SMEs. In addition to standard login details, an extra authentication step through a mobile app or a physical token can secure financial operations and sensitive payroll information from unauthorised access.
Multi-Factor Authentication is a great way to improve your business’s online security. It’s simple yet effective in protecting your data and building customer trust. Adopting MFA can be a key step for your SME in cyber security.
If you want to discuss MFA or other cyber security needs, please get in touch.