What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

Aug 16, 2021

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and Why Does Your Small to Midsize Business Need It?

Small to midsize businesses in Aspen, Vail, Denver, and across Colorado’s Western Slope, are implementing more security measures, like multi-factor authentication (MFA), to provide that extra level of security to thwart hackers from breaching their systems.

A supervisor from a small local Colorado organization reached out to an expert at All Mountain Technologies with a very important question. He said his superior wanted to explore options of implementing MFA. The supervisor feels that the small size of the company in a remote Colorado ski resort town would deter any hackers from compromising their IT network. He asked, “Is MFA really important for a small business like ours?”

Our answer, “Yes, it absolutely is!” As cyberattacks, including ransomware attacks, continue to occur every 11 seconds around the world, hackers continue to infiltrate systems through their most common method, cracking passwords. Cybercriminals are attacking small to midsize businesses now more than ever.

Small to Midsize businesses in Aspen, Vail, Denver, and across Colorado’s Western Slope, are implementing more security measures, like multi-factor authentication (MFA), to provide that extra level of security to thwart hackers from breaching their systems.

Maintaining strong and complex passwords is not as easy as it sounds. Most users opt for passwords that are short and easy to remember instead. Even though passwords are the most direct way to access a user’s private information, most passwords in use today are simply not strong or complex enough.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

Microsoft stated that 99.9% of the accounts that are compromised each month do not have an MFA solution enabled. In fact, MFAs have resulted in a 67% reduction in breaches, according to Microsoft.

MFA is a great way to overcome the user’s resistance to maintaining strong passwords, while still ensuring adequate standards of cybersecurity. MFA requires the user to utilize two methods to confirm that they are the rightful account owner. There are three categories of information that can be used in this process:

  • Something You Have: Includes a mobile phone, app, or generated code.
  • Something You Know: A family member’s name, city of birth, pin, or phrase.
  • Something You Are: Includes fingerprints and facial recognition.

With MFA, you can enroll new employee devices in minutes, given that there’s no need to install an endpoint agent. An MFA solution will also give you the capability to specify security policies to individuals.

Even with MFA in place, it is still important to make sure you and your employees are creating strong and complex passwords. When creating passwords, keep the following in mind:

  • Length and Complexity: If it’s easy for you to remember, it’s easy for a hacker to figure out. The longer and more complex your password, the harder it is for a hacker to crack. Most platforms required a minimum of 8 characters, but experts now suggest using a minimum of 24 characters.
  • Numbers, Symbols, and Case Sensitivity: In order for a password to be complex, and harder for hackers to figure out, it is important to add numbers and symbols. It is equally important to mix in some capital letters as well.
  • Personal Information: Everything you could possibly want to know about someone can be found on many Social Media platforms. Using personal information such as your birth date, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, etc., is no longer a good idea. Avoid using personal identifiers.

MFA in Office 365 and Windows Azure

Microsoft provides two levels of their MFA services to meet the demands of clients with MFA in Office 365 and an enhanced version in the Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite (EMS). Office 365 includes MFA to help provide extra security of resources and is managed from the Office 365 Admin Center.

Basic features, like the ability to enable and enforce MFA for end users along with the use of a mobile app or phone call as a second form of authentication, are some of the features that MFA offers.

MFA is included, for free, with Office 365. However, businesses using legacy protocols and infrastructure that can’t handle MFA will have this level of security bypassed by using an application password.

MFA in Windows Azure offers many more features than in Office 365. Extra features included in Windows Azure are:

  • On-premises Integrations: MFA works with services such as VPN, Citrix, and Terminal Services to keep user data secure on-premises while performing authentications through the MFA cloud service.
  • Customizable Voice Greetings and Caller ID: When answering an authentication call, users will hear a customized greeting instead of the default greeting. Also, employees can receive authentication calls from one main company phone number that shows up on caller ID instead of the Microsoft default number.
  • Fraud Alert: Users will be immediately notified of an attempt to access an account via phone or email when they receive an MFA authentication request. This feature also allows users to report unauthorized attempted access by entering in a configured fraud alert code. This will notify their IT administrator to take appropriate actions. Once the fraud alert code is entered, the user account is immediately blocked.
  • Reporting and Auditing: MFA reporting tools provide information on anything related to MFA, including tracking user access and denials and suspicious account activities.

Multi Factor Authentication

Why Does Your Colorado Organization Need MFA?

Email attacks, like phishing and spear phishing campaigns, continue to be the most popular way for hackers to gain access to your systems and sensitive data. These attacks can be prevented by using MFA. MFA makes it harder for hackers if they don’t have the extra device your employees use to verify they are the account holder.

MFA will enhance your organization’s security by requiring your users to identify themselves in multiple ways. By enforcing the use of MFA, you will experience increased confidence and peace of mind knowing that your organization is safe from cybercriminals.

Due to an increase in cybercriminal activities, there is a heightened awareness of the risks and demands of cybersecurity. MFA will add that extra layer of security to protect any size organization, to fulfill compliance requirements, and to increase productivity.

All Mountain Technologies can assess your organization’s IT requirements and can implement the right solutions, including MFA solutions, within your IT environment. To learn more about our MFA solutions and how we can help protect your organization, give our Edwards Office a call at (970) 748-8880, or call our Denver Office at (303) 500-6854. You can also send an email over to info@allmtntech.com.