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Why Multi-Factor Authentication Is Crucial For Your Small Business

Vince Lloyd
January 18, 2022

With the unending emergence of new, advanced cybersecurity threats, it’s safe to say that all modern businesses should be concerned about cybersecurity. It’s undeniably important that small businesses be up-to-date on current cybersecurity protocols and best practices.

It goes without saying that a strong web presence is a must in this interconnected digital world, usually through a robust and dynamic website and social media platforms. 

But if your business’s website allows users to create accounts, stores user data, or processes online transactions, it’s critical that you make sure it’s safe and secure for your customers to engage with. 

Or if your employees use web services or other connected services to interact with your business’ data or its clientele, the safety of your business is dependent on the assurance of security.

The truth is, the growth of your company can be severely inhibited by a security break that compromises user data.

Above all, you want your customers and employees to feel confident that their sensitive, personal information is collected and stored securely, and you want to be able to rest easy knowing that you’ve gone the extra mile to protect your business and it’s data.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-factor authentication is a powerful way to prevent malicious actors from gaining access to user and small business accounts by requiring the user to provide additional verification, proving that they are who they claim to be. 

Most commonly, two-factor authentication is used, ‌requiring users to verify their identity using a single, second factor.

When a customer creates an account with your business or an employee interacts with the various web services utilized by your business operations, they typically sign up via email and create a username and password. 

The issue is that most users do not follow the best practices on the internet or in their daily lives. Users may use short passwords that are easy to crack, or they may use the same password across many accounts - nearly 75% of users are known to do this very thing!

Small Business Multi-Factor Authentication

How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work for Small Business?

At its core, MFA doesn’t have to be a huge inconvenience for your users and employees. Rather, it can be a simple, minor step in the login process that provides invaluable peace of mind for you and your users.

When you incorporate MFA into your organization, you are adding another layer of security, making it significantly harder for nefarious parties to hack, phish or force their way into your network and web services, and the priceless business data stored there.

After a user enters the correct login information for whichever type of account they wish to access, they will need to verify their identity once more. Most commonly, this is achieved through the use of one-time passwords (OTP). 

OTPs are numeric codes that are sent to either the registered email or the registered phone number. Often an option is presented to the user, asking if they want the OTP sent via email or text.

The common path of the MFA login process:

  1. A user enters their username and password to gain access to their account.
  2. Authentication server checks if the password the user entered was correct. The user is prompted to receive a one-time password via either phone, email, or another authentication device.
  3. The user’s second-factor device or email receives OTP from the authentication server.
  4. Validation of OTP confirms the user’s identity and allows access to the account.
Small Business Multi-factor Authentication Security

Common Forms of Small Business Multi-Factor Authentication

This article has already touched on using email and phone/text as a method for multi-factor authentication, but there are many options to choose from depending on your small business’ needs:

1.   Hardware Tokens

Hardware tokens are commonly used in-house to verify that a user trying to connect to an internal server system, or trying to connect externally, is an authorized user. This is a physical token, often a USB token, that must be plugged into the device and may require using a security token or code.

2.   Biometrics

Biometric authentication is available on Android and iOS through the use of facial recognition and fingerprint scans. Other uses can include voice recognition, iris recognition, and vein pattern scans. Best when combined with another authentication method.

3.   Software Tokens

Two-factor authentication is provided by a downloaded application, also known as an authenticator. Popular applications include Authy, Microsoft Authenticator, and 2FA Authenticator. These applications are linked to an external account. A unique time-sensitive code is generated when the external account pings the software.

4.   Location

Authentication is expected from a specific location. Not the best form of authentication but can help prevent malicious attackers from entering a user’s account by alerting the user when an attempt to enter their account occurs from outside their general geographic area.

5.   SMS or Voice

The most common 2FA method. The user receives a text or a voice message with a one-time password to validate their identity.

6.   Email

The user receives an email that contains a one-time password to validate their identity. This method is very similar to password recovery.

7.   Push Notifications

When a user logs into their account, their mobile device receives a push notification to confirm that the user is the one logging in. Generally requires a tap to validate. Apple iOS uses push notifications when accessing iCloud externally.

Is Multi-Factor Authentication 100% Reliable?

Unfortunately, nothing in cybersecurity is 100% secure. Hackers and cybercriminals will go to elaborate lengths to crack into users’ accounts to gain access to their personal information.

 Often they are not targeting a single user but will attack an entire enterprise's system at once. Ultimately, multi-factor authentication will help prevent most ground-level cyber attacks.

The more factors that are incorporated into authentication, the more secure the authentication will be. If your business involves collecting and storing highly sensitive data from your customers and employees, you may consider adding a third or fourth-factor option for your users. 

Financial institutions are leading the charge, requiring 2FA to access bank accounts, investment accounts, cryptocurrency wallets, credit card accounts, and more. 

Organizations like Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, Amazon, Intuit, PayPal, and many more already require two-factor authentication.

While highly recommended, MFA for business is not yet a requirement. It is, however, imperative that your business be taking measures to stay ahead of the game as the online world evolves around us at a rapid pace.

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MFA For Your Small Business

Here at Crossroad IT, we specialize in developing unique IT solutions for our customers. 

We know how important your business is to you and would love the chance to provide a multi-factor authentication solution that will help your company grow and protect your user and employee data. 

If you would like to offer the security of multi-factor authentication for your users or would like to discuss the options available to you, you can contact us at [email protected] or call us at (215) 804-9374.

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