Updated on November 21, 2023.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is important because it adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts to prevent them from being compromised. According to a Microsoft report, MFA can block over 99.9% of account compromise attacks – making it one of the most important cybersecurity measures to implement to secure your accounts.
Continue reading to learn more about MFA, its importance and the options for MFA authentication you can choose from.
What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?
Multi-factor authentication is an authentication method where the user is only granted access to a website, application or platform after providing one or more authentication factors that validate their identity. Instead of only having to enter a username and password, you would also have to provide additional authentication with MFA enabled.
You may have already heard of Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) which is also considered MFA, but instead of one or more authentication factors, 2FA requires only one additional authentication factor to your username and password. This means that 2FA is MFA, but not all MFA is 2FA.
Why It’s Important To Use Multi-Factor Authentication
MFA is important because it provides extra layers of security to your online accounts, helps prevent your accounts from being compromised in the event of a data breach and alerts you of suspicious login attempts.
Depending on the account MFA is enabled for, you may have the option to use more than just one MFA method. The more MFA methods you add to an account, the more secure that account will be because of the extra layers required to successfully log in.
Without MFA enabled, a cybercriminal would just have to know your username and password to successfully gain access to your account. Because many people resort to using weak passwords because they’re easy to remember, the possibility of a cybercriminal cracking or guessing it can place your account at risk of compromise, especially if you fail to enable MFA.
MFA prevents account compromise from data breaches
Data breaches at companies with which you have accounts can expose your login credentials to cybercriminals, who can then use those credentials to gain access to your accounts. If you’re someone who reuses passwords, with just one set of your credentials being exposed, a cybercriminal can gain access to any of your other accounts that use the same password.
In the unfortunate event that your login credentials were exposed in a data breach, MFA would prevent any unauthorized individual from being able to log in to your account since the cybercriminal wouldn’t be able to authenticate who they are.
MFA alerts you of suspicious login attempts
If someone was attempting to log in to your account, depending on the MFA method you have enabled, you can be alerted about the login attempt. MFA methods such as SMS text codes and email codes are sent only after someone has entered your username and password correctly. If you’re not the person trying to log in to your account, receiving these codes can indicate that someone else is attempting to access your account. This allows you to act immediately by updating your password.
What Options Do I Have For MFA?
The options you have for MFA may vary from account to account, but here are some of the most common types of MFA you may be able to choose from.
SMS text message or email tokens: This MFA type is when you’re sent codes through text message or email. You’re typically sent the code after entering the correct username and password for your account.
TOTP codes: Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) codes are 6 digit-numbers that only work for a time-limited basis (often 30-60 seconds). These codes can be generated using authenticator apps or password managers.
Security questions: Security questions are used both verbally and digitally to confirm your identity. When you’re first setting up your security questions digitally, it’s best to avoid answering the questions factually to ensure there’s no possibility of someone being able to find the answer online. Just be sure to remember the answers to those questions.
Hardware security key: Security keys are physical keys you carry with you. To verify your identity using a hardware security key, all you need to do is insert it or tap it on your device.
Biometric authentication: Biometric authentication verifies your identity through facial recognition, fingerprints or iris scan. You may be familiar with the facial recognition used to get into your phone.
Keep Your Accounts Safe With Strong Passwords and MFA
Strong passwords and MFA are both important security measures to implement to keep your online accounts secure at all times. It can be difficult to manage multiple strong passwords and make sure you’re enabling MFA on your accounts wherever possible, but having a password manager can help. A password manager is a tool that aids users in creating and securely storing their passwords. Some password managers like Keeper® also securely store 2FA codes so you don’t have to juggle between multiple applications.
A major benefit of having your passwords and 2FA codes stored in a password manager is that they’ll autofill when you go to the website or application it’s for. Start securing your online accounts with strong passwords and MFA with the help of a password manager by starting a free 30-day trial of Keeper.