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MFA Prompt Bombing: Is it a New Threat Vector to Worry About?

The MFA prompt attacks typically leverage MFA fatigue, where users get annoyed and unknowingly or unwillingly accept authentication attempts initiated by cyber attackers. This post uncovers the aspects associated with MFA prompt bombing attacks and how businesses can reinforce their overall security infrastructure.

Introduction

In a modern digital world where businesses are swiftly adopting new technologies to safeguard crucial information from various threat vectors, multi-factor authentication (MFA) prompt bombing could be the next big thing to worry about.

C-level executives, including CTOs, and IT staff of organizations globally, are concerned about the increasing risks and threats associated with MFA prompt bombing.

The MFA prompt attacks typically try to leverage MFA fatigue where users get annoyed and unknowingly or unwillingly accept authentication attempts initiated by cyber attackers.

In a post-COVID world, when cybercriminals are exploring new ways to exploit customer identities and sensitive business information, ensuring robust security for customers and employees becomes the need of the hour.

Let’s understand the aspects associated with MFA prompt bombing attacks and how businesses can reinforce their overall security infrastructure.

What is an MFA Prompt Bombing Attack? Why Shouldn’t Businesses Ignore it?

MFA prompt bombing can be defined as a cyber attack that utilizes multi-factor authentication so that users don’t even realize that they authenticate a cybercriminal to access their account.

Cybercriminals that have obtained user credentials rigorously send second-factor authentication requests to the user by email or phone (OTP).

The frustrated user may accidentally click on the link to verify the login attempt, and that’s all it takes to make MFA prompt bombing successful.

Attackers trigger the MFA by sending an authentication link or OTP repeatedly, and the user will accidentally provide approval for the same.

And things get extremely complicated when a platform supports push-based MFA authentication. This leads to a situation where a single tap, whether intentional or unintentional, may lead to severe consequences.

Hence, businesses must consider certain security measures and risks before incorporating multi-factor authentication into their websites and applications.

How Risk-Based Authentication Can Reinforce Authentication Security?

Risk-based authentication (RBA) is a method to send notifications or prompt the consumers to complete an additional step(s) to verify their identities when the authentication request is deemed malicious according to your organization's security policy.

RBA allows users to log in using a username and password without presenting any additional authentication barrier while providing a security layer whenever a malicious attempt is made to access the system.

Risk-based authentication is a great security mechanism that helps overcome the challenges associated with MFA prompt bombing since it automatically detects the risks and unusual behavior from a particular account and restricts access.

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How Risk-Based Authentication Works for Protecting Against MFA Prompt Bombing?

Whenever an authentication request is deemed as a malicious attempt based on the risk factors defined for your application, risk-based authentication triggers one or more of the following actions according to your business requirements:

  • Email Notification: An email is sent to notify the consumer about the authentication request. If the consumer finds the authentication request malicious, they can inform the business to take appropriate actions.
  • SMS Notification: An SMS is sent to the consumer's phone number to notify the consumer about the authentication request. It gives an advantage as the consumer checks the SMS more frequently than email, or the consumer might not have access to the email. If the consumer finds the authentication request malicious, they can inform the company to take appropriate actions.
  • Blocking User Access: The account is blocked immediately for further login attempts once specific risk criteria have been met. The consumer needs to contact the company to unblock the access.
  • Security Questions: This forces the consumer to answer one or more security questions before authenticating the request.

Final Thoughts

With the increasing cybersecurity threat landscape in the digital-first era, MFA prompt bombing could be the most challenging thing to deal with.

Businesses need to understand the risks associated with account takeovers through various attacks, including MFA prompt bombing, and should plan overall security infrastructure accordingly.

Organizations can invoke the true potential of risk-based authentication (RBA) to overcome the challenges pertaining to MFA prompt bombing.

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Alok Patidar

Written by Alok Patidar

Alok Patidar is Information Security Manager at LoginRadius. He is a security professional who has been in computer, cybersecurity & information security for over a decade. Alok carries experience in multiple domains which include risk assessment, cyber threat analysis, vulnerability assessment & red teaming.

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