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At the end of my recent webinar on cybersecurity, I shared five things you can do to immediately reduce your exposure to cyberthreats.

These include simple steps such as getting your software patches up to date and insuring your backups are running and can be successfully restored. As a bonus sixth recommendation, I mentioned multi-factor authentication (MFA).

For many, this is a new term, so I wanted to take the time to dig into this and give a more thorough understanding of the concept, the benefits, and how you can integrate this into your IT security strategy.

Multi-factor authentication (sometimes referred to as 2FA, or two-factor authentication) identifies users by validating two or more pieces of information (factors). Factors fall into three categories: 


  • Knowledge: Something you know
    • Most common form of authentication
    • Typically, a password or a PIN
  • Possession: Something you have
    • Can be a smartcard, USB stick with a token, hardware key fob, or commonly a one-time SMS code sent to your cell phone
    • Example of common MFA requiring possession is using a bankcard with your PIN to withdraw money at an ATM
  • Inherence: Something you are
    • Primarily biometrics (fingerprint, voice, iris, facial recognition)
    • Least common, but growing method

The impetus behind MFA is that there is no perfect authentication method. A single authentication factor will have weaknesses which are compensated for by adding an additional authentication factor. In other words, if your password is compromised, the second, uncompromised, factor will thwart any cyberattack until the password can be reset. The enhanced security of this approach is pretty obvious, especially when you move beyond two factors, but what does this mean to your business from a practical standpoint?

It’s not surprising that the one common vulnerability that every business or organization shares, exactly matches the most common attack vectors used by cybercriminals.

Phishing emails, and socially engineered attacks target the human element of the security chain, often with devastating results. By incorporating MFA into your security plan, you directly address this weakness by creating additional obstacles for your attackers to overcome. It’s a simple change with a big security payoff and it’s significantly less likely that you will suffer a breach if additional authentication factors exist.

Although it may sound complex or burdensome to implement, there are actually a large number of solutions available to implement multi-factor authentication, some at a very reasonable cost. When coupled with single sign-on (SSO) and self-service password reset, MFA becomes a productivity as well as a security asset.

No single solution will ever make your business completely secure but adding MFA can strengthen your security posture without radically changing the way you do business.

There are few ways more effective to reduce your risk of a cyberattack and limit your exposure to the most common attack vectors. Let us know if you want to explore MFA, or other security options available from Columbus.

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