“Why is MFA important?” That’s a question we’re hearing more often as companies look to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses. 

With hacks and data breaches constantly in the news, adding Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) has become an essential best practice for protecting your users, data, and systems against cyber threats. Keep reading to understand why using MFA is critical for defending against attacks in today’s digital landscape.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

raise awareness about why MFA is important

MFA requires users to provide two or more verification factors when logging into an account. The factors include:

  • Something you know (like a password or PIN)
  • Something you have (such as a smart card or token)
  • Something you are (biometric verification like fingerprint or facial recognition)

By requiring two or more factors, MFA prevents intruders from gaining access with a stolen password alone. Even if they have your password, they’d also need physical possession of the other factor.

Why Passwords Alone Aren’t Enough

Passwords have been the standard authentication method for decades. But relying on passwords alone comes with significant risks:

  • They can be guessable, reused, or subject to social engineering attacks
  • They can be stolen through phishing sites or password database breaches
  • People tend to use weak, easy-to-crack passwords for convenience
  • Passwords don’t change over time and may be used indefinitely 

With how often passwords are compromised or leaked, you should never rely on a password alone to protect your accounts. MFA addresses all these weaknesses to provide enhanced security.

The Many Benefits of MFA 

Adding MFA strengthens account security in several key ways:

  • Makes stolen credentials useless to intruders
  • Prevents unauthorized account access and fraudulent transactions 
  • Stops attackers from moving laterally within systems if they steal one password
  • Provides continuous authentication instead of just at login
  • Helps detect suspicious login attempts and credential sharing

Other benefits include reduced help desk costs, improved user experience, and prevention of insider threats.

How Multi-Factor Authentication Works

There are a variety of MFA techniques, but the general process follows these steps:

  1. A user enters their username and password to log in.
  2. The system verifies this first factor.
  3. It then prompts the user to present a second factor, which may require:
    • Inserting a smart card or USB security key
    • Providing a unique code from an authentication app
    • Scanning a fingerprint or other biometric data
    • Receiving a verification code via text, email, or phone call
  4. After the user successfully provides the second factor, access is granted.

Types of MFA Methods

MFA offers flexibility to use factors that match your users and the level of security needed:

  • 2FA apps like Microsoft Authenticator, Google Authenticator (something you have)
  • Security keys like Yubikey (something you have)  
  • Biometrics like fingerprint, face, or iris scan (something you are)
  • SMS codes, phone calls, or emails (something you have)
  • Hardware tokens that generate random codes (something you have)
  • Adaptive MFA that evaluates risk to require more factors for high-risk logins

Best Practices for Implementing MFA

Follow these best practices to successfully roll out MFA:

  • Educate users on MFA and why it improves security
  • Conduct a pilot first with small groups to work out issues
  • Develop training materials and help desk processes to support users
  • Plan for contingency mechanisms in case users lose a factor device
  • For apps, use push notifications over SMS when possible
  • For enterprises, employ adaptive MFA and single sign-on

Properly implemented MFA improves both security and user experience over time.

Encouraging User Adoption of MFA

Like any new technology, some users will be resistant to adopting MFA. You can encourage buy-in by:

  • Explaining how MFA protects their personal information from hackers
  • Making enrollment easy with self-service documentation
  • Gamifying security education and testing
  • Starting with higher-risk users like executives to set an example
  • Sharing successful MFA adoption stories and data
  • Providing MFA methods that integrate into user workflows  
  • Making a lapse in MFA compliance embarrassing or inconvenient

With the right change management tactics, MFA can become second nature for your users.

Protect them and your business with multi-factor authentication!

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MFA dramatically improves account security by requiring users to verify with an additional factor like biometrics or a security token, preventing unauthorized access.

Requiring multiple factors for verification makes it extremely difficult for bad actors to access accounts with a stolen password alone.

MFA protects companies from data breaches, security incidents, and financial fraud by adding another layer of identity confirmation beyond reusable passwords.

MFA is a critical safeguard against cyber threats because it prevents unauthorized account access even when passwords are compromised.

The pros of MFA are a stronger defense against cyberattacks; the cons are potential user inconvenience and deployment/training costs.

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