Cyber security is all about layers. Sure, a strong and unique passphrase or password is great, but if that’s all you have to protect your accounts, networks and devices, you’re still vulnerable to compromise if, for example, you have re-used a password or chosen one that’s too easy to guess. One way to add an additional layer to your cyber security is to enable multi-factor authentication – or MFA.
You might be wondering how you’ll remember one more thing on top of your strong, unique passphrases and passwords. But the good news is it is not something else you need to remember.
First things first: what is the difference between two-factor authentication (2FA), two-step verification and MFA? Well, for starters, 2FA is a form of MFA. In both cases you are using two different methods of verifying your identity, known as authentication factors. Whereas two-step verification uses two of the same type, MFA requires two or more different authentication factors to be applied.
Now, we started this off by noting that MFA doesn’t involve having to remember something new. How can that be? MFA, or 2FA which functions under the same principle, is based on three types of authentication factors: something you know (like a passphrase, password or PIN), something you have (a USB key, access card, an App or SMS message), or something you are (fingerprints, retina or iris scan). Combining two or more of these authentication factors is an easy way to add a layer of protection to your accounts.
Like all cyber security measures, MFA is not failproof. If you are using a physical token like a USB, it is possible you could lose it. Make sure you have a recovery plan in case of such an event. MFA isn’t offered by all online services, since it adds to an organization’s effort and cost. But if the services you use offer it, it’s a simple way to help protect yourself online. It may seem like too much effort to add more layers to the login process. But take the extra care for Apps and sites that contain key pieces of your identity – be it personal or financial. Those are where adding in that extra care is the most important. Adding just a little extra time to a login protocol could make all the difference in preventing stolen financial or identity data.
- What is multi-factor authentication?
- ITSAP.00.019 Biometrics
- ITSAP.30.030 Secure your accounts and devices with multi-factor authentication
- ITSAP.30.032 Best practices for passphrases and passwords
- ITSAP.30.036 Rethink Your password habits to protect your accounts from hackers
- ITSAP.00.001 Using your mobile device securely