Multi-factor Authentication

All You Need to Know About Multi-factor Authentication  

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides an extra layer of protection for your accounts and sensitive data. Here's all you need to know about MFA, how it works and why it's an essential step in protecting your information.

How Multi-factor Authentication Works

Multi-factor authentication utilizes two or more factors to allow users to sign in to an account. Generally, these consist of something the user knows, like a password or PIN, along with one or both of the following:

• Something the user has, like a phone, key fob, or smartcard.

• Something the user is, like an iris or fingerprint scan, or voice or facial recognition.

Accounts using MFA will not allow users to sign in to their account unless both factors check out.

Why Multi-factor Authentication is Crucial for Protecting Sensitive Information

While passwords can protect against hackers, they've proven to be a weak barrier against hackers. A recent study by Digital Shadows found evidence of approximately 15 billion passwords floating around the dark web. These passwords can provide cybercriminals access to the victims' financial accounts, credit card information, Social Security data, and more.

Unfortunately, amateur hackers can crack passwords, even without a data breach. For these reasons, using MFA when available — especially for accounts storing highly sensitive information — is crucial for ongoing security and protection. So in the event of a data breach or hack, the criminal will only get their hands on your password or credentials, but your information is still protected. In addition, without access to your account's second authentication factor, the hacker can't gain entry.

Where You May Encounter MFA

You're most likely to encounter MFA on accounts storing very sensitive data like banking, money management, and investment apps. Depending on your line of work, you may also need to use MFA to sign in to your personal workplace. Finally, some retailers may offer the option of using MFA.

Using MFA means a longer login process. However, this inconvenience pales against the time, stress, and money it will take to recover from a potential data breach.