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What is multi-factor authentication, and how does it protect you online?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security measure that requires users to provide additional information beyond their username and password to access an account. This additional information can include a one-time code sent to the user’s phone or email or a biometric factor such as a fingerprint or iris scan. By requiring multiple forms of identification, multi-factor authentication makes it more difficult for hackers to access systems and data.

According to Microsoft, using MFA can block 99.9 percent of automated attacks. Additionally, a recent study conducted by Google found that multi-factor authentication (MFA) was 100% effective in stopping automated bot attacks. This is a significant finding, as automated bot attacks are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated.


How Multi-factor Authentication Works


To learn how MFA works, you must understand both “authentication” and “factor”. Authentication is verifying that a user is who they claim to be. A factor is evidence the user needs to present to prove their identity. MFA works by combining these two concepts.

One-time passwords (OTPs) are one of the most common MFA factors. An OTP is an automatically generated code used to authenticate users. These codes are typically generated by an application on a user’s smartphone or delivered to the user’s email address.

The shared secret code is known only to the user and the system generating the codes and is valid for a short period. The user enters the code into a login field in addition to their username and password.


Multi-factor authentication can be divided into three categories:


1. What you know (data): The most common form of MFA Authentication is what you know, such as a password or a PIN.

2. What you have (ownership): You typically have a physical object, such as a key, ID card, phone number, or smartphone.

3. Who you are (inherence): This refers to biometric characteristics, such as fingerprints, iris scans, or facial recognition.


What’s the difference between MFA and 2-Factor Authentication (2FA)?


MFA is an authentication method requiring two or more forms of verification to access an account or system. On the other hand, 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) requires two forms of proof to access a resource. This can include a combination of a password and a code sent to your mobile device.

So, which is better? Each method has pros and cons, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Some consider MFA more secure because it requires multiple factors for authentication, while 2FA only requires two. However, 2FA is considered more user-friendly and is, therefore, more widely used.


What are the most secure authentication methods?


OTP Codes

OTP codes are an effective way to protect against password replay attacks. In a password replay attack, an attacker captures the user’s username and password and uses them to access the account. By adding an OTP code, the attacker would also need to capture the code, which is much more difficult to do.

OTP codes are also effective against man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. In a MITM attack, the attacker intercepts communications between the user and the system. The attacker can then capture the user’s username, password, and OTP code. To prevent this, OTP codes are usually transmitted over a secure channel such as SSL/TLS.

OTPs can be an effective way to secure online accounts, but they can be inconvenient for users who have to remember to carry their trusted devices with them.


Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication is a method of verifying a person’s identity by assessing their physical characteristics. This can include fingerprinting, iris scanning, voice recognition, and facial recognition.

Biometric data is very difficult to spoof and is much more reliable than other methods such as passwords or PINs. In addition, biometric authentication is easy to use, and users are less likely to forget their credentials.

While biometric authentication can be very accurate, there is a chance for error. For example, if a fingerprint is captured incorrectly, the system may not be able to identify the user.


QR Codes

QR codes are a type of barcode that you can read using a smartphone or other smart device. They are often used in online transactions as they provide a quick and easy way to scan and process payment information. They can also track inventory, store customer information, and much more. QR codes are independent of third-party applications, meaning they are more difficult to hack.

The problem with QR codes is that they require a smartphone to scan, which not everyone has. Secondly, QR codes can be copied and reused, which means they are not as secure as other authentication methods.


Push Notification Authentication

Push notification authentication is a security measure that uses push notifications to deliver one-time passcodes or other authentication factors. This method is simple to use, highly effective in blocking MITM and phishing attacks, and relatively inexpensive.

However, there are several potential drawbacks to using push notification authentication as a security measure. Malicious actors can spoof push notifications, which could allow them to gain access to sensitive information.

Additionally, push notification authentication is only as strong as the security of the user’s device. If a device is compromised, an attacker could bypass push notification authentication entirely.


Behavioural Authentication

Behavioural biometrics is based on the idea that people can be uniquely identified by their behaviour patterns. This can include things like the way they type, the way they move their mouse or the way they interact with a touch screen.

The main advantages of this method are that it is very difficult to spoof. It is also frictionless, meaning people do not have to take extra steps to verify their identities.

However, behavioural authentication methods are often criticised for being invasive of privacy. By their very nature, these methods require collecting data about an individual’s behaviour, which can then be used to profile that individual.

This can be a concern for those who value their privacy, as it can potentially lead to a loss of control over how their personal data is used.

Additionally, behavioural characteristics can change over time, which may impact the system’s accuracy.




Hopefully, you now better understand how MFA works and how it can help you protect your data in the future. Just remember that multi-factor authentication is only one line of defence in protecting your private information. Using strong passwords, backing up your data, and exercising caution around suspicious links are also crucial to keeping your and devices accounts safe.


How Eventura Can Digitally Transform Your Business


Here at Eventura, we’ve been helping businesses digitally transform for over two decades. Along with providing robust business solutions such as Sage 200 and NetSuite, we also offer an extensive range of services including cybersecurity, cloud hosting, backup and recovery, managed networks, Microsoft 365 and managed IT services.

If your business is experiencing growth and your current systems are struggling to keep up, get in touch and see how we can help. If you would like to speak to one of our business solutions specialists, you can request a free call back here.

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