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Reducing risks with multi-factor authentication
Reducing risks with multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication in accessing cloud applications is crucial for reducing risks related to unsanctioned entries and security breaches. Introducing a multi-factor authentication solution helps making access to cloud applications in the following ways: it  adds a specific means of authentication by challenging users to provide sufficient proof of identification that they are who they claim to be, and it empowers IT security teams with the ability to oversee any access across multiple applications

In addition to enhancing security, a multi-factor authentication solution that is utilized in a variety of in- house and cloud applications also gives users and IT administrators more convenience in accessing applications and managing them. It does not matter what resource it is –   e-mail, Inventory replenishment program, VPN, and so on, — the same authentication process is used. This removes the necessity to customize the authentication mechanism to every application. In addition, managing the security of multiple cloud applications becomes easier with one multi-factor authentication solution.

The multi-factor authentication system employs a wide range of data analytics to determine if a user’s identity must be subjected to additional verification, taking into consideration such factors as user location, type of business, IP address and type of a device. The system can request more verification if the analytics suspect that there is an attempt of unauthorized entry.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) methods

Identifying users can be done through different multi-authentication schemes such as text passwords, biometric verification, single sign-on (SSO), public key infrastructure, symmetric-key-based method, and others.

Many companies still use text passwords, which is not really a safe practice. When a company stores passwords in plain text, anyone who has access to the password database can read them. Adding encryption, hashing, and salting to text passwords makes them more secure.

Encryption is a bi-lateral means of securing data, where the information is encoded in such a way that makes it possible to be decoded later.

Hashing is a one-way of securing data where it is labeled to a fixed-length content. It is mainly used for authentication purposes.

Salting is an additional means of making data more secure, which is also done during hashing and is attached to hashed passwords. This supplements an additional value at the end of the password, and it alters the result of the hash value.

Biometric verification is a method of authenticating an individual’s identity by means of such unique identifiers as voice recognition, fingerprints, retina scan, DNA and others, which are impossible to forge because every person has his/her own unique set of distinguishing biological traits. Thus, an individual can be identified by examination of these traits. This is why many business corporations, law enforcement agencies, and government entities utilize biometric verification techniques for security purposes.

Single sign-on or SSO is a technique of gaining entry to multiple systems with just a single login without prompting for any further login. SSO provides users with many advantages such as ease of implementation and unlocking access to multiple resources with just a single password,

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is a way of authenticating users and appliances in the digital environment. The basic idea here is to allow the digital signing of documents by one or more trusted parties upon verification that a certain cryptographic key is connected with a certain device or user.  In reality, there are many certificate authorities, and many computer networks and web browsers use quite a few trusted certificate authorities by default.

Another widely adopted authentication technique is a symmetric key-based method. This method is based on a single key encryption schemes that are shared between two or more users. The same key is utilized to encrypt and decrypt a piece of data. During the encryption process, a plaintext (input) is processed by an encryption algorithm called a cipher, which produces a ciphertext (output).

Symmetric encryption algorithms are utilized in a variety of modern computer systems to improve data security. A vivid example of a symmetric cipher technique is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), so commonly used nowadays in secure messaging and cloud storage applications.

An escalating need for top-notch security puts pressure on IT administrators. As cybercriminals invent more and more sophisticated ways, the admins’ task to protect the network also becomes more challenging. Multi-factor authentication gives IT admins more confidence in protecting the company’s platforms while reducing complexity and making access to the company’s IT resources much safer.

The importance of MFA

Manipulating people through social engineering and phishing attacks are the most widely spread and the biggest security threats to organizations and private users. MFA helps prevent these violations by introducing extra layers of security that a potential fraudster will have difficulty obtaining from a user. While it is easy for a user to follow a fraudster’s phishing link and type in his/her password, a chance of fraudsters actually taking phone or USB key from users is much smaller.

It is also worth educating users, although many people do not want to listen and learn. For example, many users do not understand the meaning of the warning that says that a certificate is invalid. Most users are not familiar with the underlying hazard of such warning, and, if they are prompted by a fraudster to enter some information, they are likely to fall for and become a victim of a phishing fraud.

MFA imposes a hindrance in the way of fraudsters’ manipulations. Knowing the username and the password becomes insufficient for a scammer to execute his or her malicious deed. Without the third authentication layer, the fraudster will not be able to access the targeted data. This is why it is always safer for users to enable at least three-level MFAs on a device that is going to have important, sensitive data stored on it.


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