Every year Southeast Massachusetts businesses lose time, data and money to hackers. Here in 2021, WFH is the norm and more and more small business processes run on vulnerable IT systems. Better security is the only way to prevent a catastrophic security breach. But how do you focus on security without turning it into a major cost center? This is where multi-factor authentication (MFA) comes into the picture.
MFA is one of the easiest and least expensive security measures you can put in place. It hardens your network and devices against hackers, even when they have access to passwords. But how does MFA work? And can you implement it cost effectively? Let’s take a look.
What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?
Before we get to MFA itself, let’s talk about authentication. This is the security process that validates that a user is actually the person they claim to be. The authentication process depends on the user having access to one or more of a number of different factors. These include:
- Special knowledge (knowing a unique passcode or PIN)
- Possession of an object or piece of information (a smart card or an OTP sent to your phone)
- Biometric factors (your fingerprints or retinal scans)
- Locational factors (access filters based on your location)
- Heuristic factors (certain security behaviors, like drawing a pattern lock)
Conventional IT management systems tend to use single-factor authentication. Think about your current PC login process: you enter your username, your password, and then you’re all set. The problem with single-factor authentication is that, in order to steal your sensitive data, all cybercriminals need is access to that one factor. If you lose your password to a phishing attack or hackers tap into a vulnerability in your existing security suite, that’s all it takes: your data gets into the wrong hands. IT support can help you mitigate damage after the fact, but prevention is a far better option.
How MFA solves the problem
Multi-factor authentication addresses this challenge by forcing users to provide more than one factor of authentication when they’re trying to log on. This makes it an order of magnitude more difficult to hack your data. For example, even if a cyber criminal has your administrative password, they wouldn’t be able to get into your system if the MFA process also asks for your fingerprint or sends a unique OTP to your smartphone.
MFA costs only a bit more to set up and run than single-factor authentication. This is one of the key reasons why MFA has become increasingly relevant over the past few months.
Why Does MFA Matter Right Now?
MFA matters now because cybersecurity itself is a major concern. Over the past year, most small businesses have switched over to a work-from-home workflow. Business processes have gradually been moving to digital over the past several years, with IT support playing an increasingly greater role. However, the move to WFH catalyzed this change.
Sensitive data now resides on vulnerable networks and personal devices. The increased WFH vulnerability and the tough financial position everyone’s in due to COVID mean that businesses simply cannot afford to suffer from cyberattacks.
At the same time, comprehensive protection is out of reach for many. This makes low-effort, high-benefit options like MFA extremely valuable. MFA needs to be integrated into an overall security strategy that includes firewalls, anti-virus, VPN and intrusion prevention. But even in situations where complete protection isn’t a viable option right now, MFA by itself offers tangible security benefits.
How do you set up MFA at your business? Secure Networks can help you configure an MFA solution that’s cost-effective, reliable and secure. We’ll help you deploy Microsoft MFA to cover all the platforms your team members use. Here’s how we’ll do that:
The right people and the right authentication factors
Not everyone in your organization needs to be part of your MFA authentication system. We’ll sit with you to identify high-priority team members who need to utilize MFA. We’ll help you determine this by addressing a number of factors, such as whether a team member needs to access sensitive business data or whether they’re working from home on an insecure network.
Once we’ve identified who needs MFA, we’ll work with you and your team to determine the most effective authentication factors to implement. Usually, this means picking between cell phone OTP authentication and a hardware token generator. We factor in convenience, platform availability and security risk before making a recommendation.
Testing, scaling and long-term guidance
Your MFA system sits between your sensitive data and a world of cyber threats out there. Testing is a critical step to ensure that MFA works from day one and to help you scale up over time. SN will help test MFA systems to identify potential gaps, user errors and other factors.
We’ll also give you continuous guidance and support, from administrative setup assistance to user training. This will ensure that your transition to MFA is as seamless as possible.
In 2021, cybersecurity is no longer optional for small businesses. An integrated security suite, covering everything from network security to continuity to access management, needs to be your long-term aim. As a first step, multi-factor authentication by itself can improve your security posture and make it that much harder for hackers to access your sensitive data.
Reach out to Secure Networks here. We’ll set you up with a complimentary risk assessment and evaluate how MFA can bring tangible security benefits to your workplace, with everything you need on the journey from service excellence to service leadership.