Now is a time when a lot of businesses are rethinking how they manage application and network access, as well as cybersecurity. When the pandemic first started, businesses were forced to scramble and piece together solutions, some of which worked and others maybe not as much.
Now, it’s looking as if widespread remote work or at least hybrid work is here to stay.
Employers have to consider cybercity in a remote work environment, as well as specific elements of that, like whether or not they’ll support a BYOD policy so that employees can access IT resources on their personal devices.
As part of all of this, you might be preparing your business to enable multi-factor authentication or MFA. MFA is one of the best things you can do to protect network access for end-users. Poor login security puts your company at a tremendous level of risk.
With that being said, many companies are reluctant to integrate MFA solutions because they’re worried about the cost, complexity, and how time-consuming they’ll be to manage. Many organizations also think they’re too small to benefit from MFA, which is incorrect. An MFA solution should be a strategic priority for businesses of any size and in any industry right now.
The following are some general things to keep in mind as you move toward this implementation.
What is MFA?
First, if you’re entirely unfamiliar, what is MFA? Multi-factor authentication is a method of authentication that requires a user to provide at least two or maybe more verification factors to gain access to a resource they need to do their job. That resource might be an online account, an application, or in some cases, a VPN.
MFA is central to identity and access management (IAM) policies, which you can’t be without, especially if you have remote workers. The use of MFA goes beyond simply requiring a username and password. Instead, it requires an additional factor for verification, lowering the potential of your business to be a victim of a successful cyberattack.
Usernames and passwords are very vulnerable to brute force attacks, and third parties can steal them. When you have an MFA factor, it’s just one more way to increase your cybersecurity protocols.
With multifactor authentication, the factors used for verification include:
- Knowledge-based: This category of authentication factors includes passwords and secret questions. Even with MFA, you still need to ensure your employees understand the importance of strong passwords.
- Inherent: These are intrinsic factors to the person logging on and might include biometric data or voice recognition.
- Possession: Possession-based factors are things your employees and only your employees will have, like a phone or an OTP token.
Beyond the above, which are considered the standard in MFA, location-based verification might be used, as can action-based factors. For example, filling out a CAPTCHA is an example of an action-based verification.
If you’re in the process of implementing MFA in your business, you want to first reduce frustration as much as you can for everyone, including your IT team. With careful planning, you can do this. You want to focus on solutions that you can deploy across users without requiring hardware or software like tokens.
You also want to try and find solutions that will work along with your existing IT infrastructure investments. Any MFA solution needs to be easily manageable, and there should be room for scalability so that it can grow and evolve with your business needs.
Along with this comes the fact that you need to make sure you’re balancing security and productivity. MFA isn’t going to be especially valuable if it’s impeding productivity.
Empower Your Employees
Any time you’re introducing new technology, including something like multi-factor authentication, you want buy-in from your employees early on. You’ll want to explain to them why you’re implementing MFA, how it will affect their work, and at the same time, you need to take it as a time to reinforce the human element of cybersecurity.
You want your employees to feel empowered to make the right choices regarding cybersecurity and assessing suspicious activity because no matter what technology you have in place, your employees are really your first line of defense.
Along with employee buy-in, you’ll need management commitment too.
Have a Concrete Plan
It can be complex to use MFA, especially when it’s entirely new for your business. You want to have a concrete strategy.
A big part of this means that you’ll need to prioritize the employees typically handling the most sensitive data, such as company executives and network administrators. From there you can work your way down to the employee who has the least amount of access to sensitive data.
As you’re choosing a specific MFA solution, look for a versatile one and will allow you to switch between authentication methods if needed.
These features have been touched on a bit, but you want an MFA solution that’s easy to both install and maintain and is user-friendly. You want to respect the time of your network administrators, and you want something user-friendly while also being compatible with all of your technical requirements.
Is It Worth It?
If you’re still in a phase where you’re questioning whether MFA is worth the costs in terms of time and money, in most cases, the answer is yes. You have to assess your level of risk before you can make that decision, but a cyberattack can be crippling to an organization of any size.
There are a lot of competing priorities you have to keep in mind, but if you give yourself time to plan it’s definitely manageable to implement MFA successfully, even if you’re a small business with limited resources. The time it takes and the money required are likely to be significantly less than the cost of a successful breach.