Multi-Factor Authentication Makes Multilayered Security Possible

Blog / Multi-Factor Authentication Makes Multilayered Security Possible

Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication Are Complements, Not Replacements.

Historic technicalities aside, users have always needed to provide two pieces of information when logging into a computer: their username, and its associated password. However, a relatively new process known as multi-factor authentication (MFA) is threatening to change that. Technology in general—and information technology (IT) specifically—develops at a breakneck pace, so we’re not opposed to change by any stretch, but it is important to catch one’s breath and slow down long enough to make sure new technologies are being implemented and leveraged properly.

Traditional Authentication

Once known simply as authenticating, the process described earlier is now known as “traditional authentication”. Before we dig into the differences between it and MFA, let’s look at why traditional authentication served us on its own so well for so long.

Between the two key elements, only the password is private information. Usernames are generally publicly available, and often aren’t even technically usernames as many services just use your preferred email address for logging in. Regardless, they’re unique, which is great for identifying individuals, but many usernames are assigned, often according to a predictable pattern like john.d or j.doe,  so there’s nothing inherently secure about them. Many on social media even promote theirs, because it’s the associated password that’s the key to unlocking an account. That means all your login security considerations and requirements need to be satisfied by it. That in turn means one of the most commonly deployed security measures is also its own single point of failure.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Of course, the importance of the password is exactly why minimum length, special character and case requirements for them now exist. However, the (relatively) recent rise of multi-factor authentication and its benefits has some people questioning the need for passwords at all. Indeed, with smartphone MFA apps like Microsoft Authenticator hidden behind your device password or, increasingly commonly, biometric data like thumbprints  andfacial recognition, it’s easy to understand why passwords might seem unnecessary.

However, although a switch from authenticating logins with passwords to MFA seems like it could enhance your cybersecurity, such an improvement is minimal. All you’ve done is make a slightly more secure single point of failure, but still not addressed that core problem. It’s only when used in combination with passwords that multi-factor authentication can meaningfully impact your cybersecurity profile by adding an entirely new layer of protection instead of swapping the old one out for a newer model.

You’ve likely been advised not to put all your eggs in one basket at some point in your life, and the same sentiment should be applied to cybersecurity. Multi-factor authentication isn’t a perfect solution and there are still weaknesses that can be exploited. MFA processes are a great addition to existing security, but are not a replacement for passwords, which still remain an important part of user security and will for many years to come still.

If you’d like help deploying Multi-Factor Authentication alongside passwords for your organization, contact the cybersecurity professionals at TRINUS, and get yourself some stress-free IT.

This quote comes from Troilus and Cressida; “Who shall be true to us, when we are so unsecret to ourselves?”

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