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What is multi-factor authentication and should you be using it?

By Paul Lyons - Monday, November 27th, 2017

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Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an added layer of security that ensures a user is who they claim to be. It works on the principle that the more factors you use to determine someone’s identity, the more you can trust their authenticity.

 

A combination of the following factors can be used to achieve MFA:

 

• Something only the individual knows – Such as a password or PIN
 
• Something only the individual owns – Such as a token or smart card (two-factor authentication)
 
• Something only the individual has – Such as a fingerprint or other biometrics (three-factor authentication)

 

Multi-factor authentication is widely known as the most secure method for accessing confidential or sensitive data and applications due to the fact that numerous means of identification are required.

 

Why you should be using multi-factor authentication

 

With cybercrime and data breaches on the up, it makes sense for every organisation to bolster security through multi-factor authentication. However, there are several specific applications and advantages that MFA can afford, which include:

 

• Protect internal networks from unauthorised access – MFA solutions enable flexible and extensive secure network access, both at your place of business and in remote locations.
 
• Protect data on user PCs and laptops – If users have data stored on their devices, there are token solutions that integrate with PC security products such as boot protection and disk encryption applications.
 
• Secure connection from remote locations – Portable solutions that enable secure VPN and web access for remote users are available, which allows users to protect their devices and data anywhere.
 
• Easier access to password-protected applications – With solutions that provide single sign-on functionality, which either store user credentials on the token or integrate with external systems, users are granted easy yet secure access.
 
• Digitally sign and encrypt sensitive data and transactions – Smart card-based solutions provide secure on-board PKI key generation and cryptographic operations, along with greater mobility for users.
 
• Implement a secure physical access solution – Token solutions enable integration with physical access systems.

 

Before implementing multi-factor authentication, think carefully about how sensitive your business data is. The more sensitive the data, the higher the priority on the robustness and security of the solution, which includes multi-factor authentication.

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