Multi-Factor Authentication - A Beginner’s Guide

MFA or multi-factor authentication is a feature widely used by businesses to ensure that the consumers coming on their website are actually who they say they are. There are multiple ways to implement multifactor authentication. We will get to them one by one in this blog.

Ashish Kumar Yadav
Ashish Kumar Yadav
March 23, 2021
5 min read

Security can be a headache for both IT professionals and consumers. Today, tens of thousands of websites store consumers' passwords and standard login credentials. So, there is always a constant risk of data theft.

Password attackers are always looking for weak passwords so that they can easily hack consumers' accounts. To tackle this problem, we often mix up the complexity with security.

It should not be like that. Always remember that complexity impacts consumer retention. Which, of course, you do not want to happen.

So, is there a solution where our process remains simple and at the same time secure? The answer is multi-factor authentication.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA or multi-factor authentication is a feature widely used by businesses to ensure that the consumers coming on their website are actually who they say they are.

It is done by providing at least two pieces of proof or evidence to state their identity. Now, these pieces of evidence must come from a different category, like say:

  • Something only they would know.
  • Something that only they possess.
  • Something that they are.

MFA works in this way because, let’s suppose one of the factors is hacked by the attackers or invalid user, the chances of another factor also getting compromised are pretty low. That is why MFA authentication requires multiple factors, and this is how it provides a higher level of API security to consumers’ identity data.

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Why MFA is So Important

Secure passwords may remain the supreme and the most common authentication method of your online identity but believe me; they provide very little protection. Consumers often make it simple for the attacker to steal their credentials by choosing weak passwords or using the same passwords for multiple applications.

As I mentioned above, with a huge number of websites and web portals comes a considerable number of consumer accounts and passwords. One of the biggest problems with traditional user ID and password is that they require how to manage email and password login and database maintenance.

It does not matter if they are encrypted or not; once the database is captured, it gives the attacker access to every detail like geographical locations, consumer’s interests, transaction pattern, etc.

That is why it becomes imperative to use multi-factor authentication, which means, even if the attacker gets access to the database, they still need to pass other security checks.

How is MFA Useful for Businesses

There are typically three primary reasons for which MFA becomes quite enhance the consumer experience in B2B SaaS and they are as follows:

  1. Security: The primary benefit of multi-factor authentication is that it provides security by adding protection in layers. The more layers/factors in place, the more the risk of an intruder gaining access to critical systems and data is reduced.
  2. Compliance: Almost every organization has some level of local, state, or federal compliance to which they must adhere. Multi-factor authentication can achieve the necessary compliance requirements specific to your organization, which will mitigate audit findings and avoid potential fines.
  3. Increase flexibility and productivity: Finally, removing the burden of passwords by replacing them with alternatives can increase productivity and bring a better usability experience due to the increased flexibility of factor types. There could even be an opportunity for a potential reduction in operational costs in the right environment and situation.

These are three main reasons which are most relevant to explain how and why Importance of MFA to businesses to implement.

Now that you’ve learned why MFA is critical, you may be keen to know how this feature works and how you can implement it.

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How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work

Multi-factor authentication, as the name suggests, for authentication requires multiple verification information. One of the most common factors that are widely used is OTP-based authentication. OTP or one-time passwords are 4-6 digit codes you will receive via SMS and work as a one-time entry token. It is generated periodically whenever an authentication request is made.

There are mainly three methods on which MFA authentication heavily relies, and those are:

  1. Things you know (knowledge): This method involves questions which only you can answer. For example: What is your mother’s maiden name? Or what is your child’s name? The purpose is to verify your identity via these questions because you are the only one who can answer these.
  2. Things you have (possession): This method involves verification from the things you have or possess, such as a mobile phone. A verification notification will be sent to your phone screen, and when you allow it from that screen only, you will be able to log-in to your account. Gmail is extensively using this feature.
  3. Things you are (inheritance): A fingerprint commonly verifies this factor. We also see verification being done by retinal scan. The purpose of this method is clear—only you can have your fingerprint, not anyone else.

How to Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Now that you have read all the benefits of using a phone login and you are planning to implement it for your business, your first question will be, "How can I implement MFA on my website." Right ??

Don't worry, I've got you covered.

There are multiple ways to implement multifactor authentication. Let's get to them one by one.

  1. Short Message Service (SMS): This process is completed by involving a short message service known as SMS and triggered at the login stages. When a user registers on a website along with the credentials, they are prompted to provide a valid phone number on which a verification SMS can be sent. Once the phone number is set up and verified, they need to go through an additional identity check where an SMS will be sent to their verified phone whenever they log in to the website.
  2. Electronic mail: In this process, when a user logs into the website with their credentials, a unique one-time code will be generated and sent to the user to their registered email address. The user will pick the code from the email and enter it into the webpage or app. In this way, the user will be verified.
  3. Push notification: In this process, when a user logs into the website with their credentials, a push notification is sent to the user's phone, which contains your business app. This notification generally appears on the main screen, and once the user confirms access from that screen, they will be logged in to their account automatically.

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about applying a simple approach of using Multi-factor authentication on websites and how it will enhance businesses. This feature increases the consumer’s account safety. Finally, before implementing any functionality on your website, analyze and consider the pros and cons from every possible angle.

Cheers!

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Ashish Kumar Yadav

Ashish Kumar Yadav

Technical Support Engineer at LoginRadius. Handles day-to-day customer technical queries regarding integration and implementation of various web technologies. A firm believer of hard work. An active runner and a big fan of nature.

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