With cyber-attacks on the rise, strong passwords no longer guarantee enough protection to keep your online profiles safe from hackers. In fact, other security features such as antivirus software, encryption technology, firewall deployment, etc. are also susceptible to being bypassed by hackers when targeted explicitly and dedicatedly.
A multi-factor authentication (MFA) system adds another layer of app security to ensure enhanced data safety. According to a survey, hackers use weak or stolen user credentials in a staggering 95% of all web application attacks.
MFA implementation can prevent unauthorized access to your personal accounts, even if someone manages to steal your sign-in details. It has low complexity, and the application does not require significant amount of time or resources.
What is Multi-Factor Authentication?
Multi-factor Authentication emerged as a reaction to the vulnerability and susceptibility of the existing security systems. It is a method that confirms the users’ identity multiple times, before granting them access.
These pieces of evidence validating a user’s identity include:
- Knowledge factor: something you know (for e.g. a username, password, security question)
- Possession factor: something you have (for e.g. a registered phone number, hardware or software token that generate authentication code, smartcard)
- Inherence factor: something you are (biometric information such as a finger, face, or voice recognition, retina scans)
When a system utilizes two or more verification mechanisms, it is known as a multi-factor authentication (MFA). The ultimate idea behind MFA is that the more number of steps a user has to take to access sensitive information, the harder it becomes for the hacker to breach the security.
One of the most common methods of authentication is a password coupled with a verification code of unique string of numbers sent via SMS or email. This method is commonly used by Google, Twitter, and other popular services. iPhone X’s Face ID and Windows Hello use the latest innovations in advanced biometric scanners for fingerprints, retinas, or faces, that are built-in the devices.
Moreover, you can also use a specialized app on your phone called an “authenticator”. The app is pre-set to work for a service and receives the codes that can be used whenever needed. Popular authentication apps include Google Authenticator, DuoMobile, and Twilio Authy.
The authentication apps are more secure when compared to receiving codes via SMS. This is primarily because text messages can be intercepted and phone numbers can be hijacked. On the other hand, authentication apps do not rely on your service carriers. In fact, they function even in the absence of cell service.
Importance of Multi-factor Authentication System
Is MFA worth the hassle of additional verification? Yes, it absolutely is.
The extra layer of security can save valuable and sensitive personal information from falling into the wrong hands. Password theft is constantly evolving. Hackers employ numerous methods including phishing, pharming, brute force, and keylogging to break into online accounts. Moreover, anti-virus systems and advanced firewalls are often incompetent and inefficient without user authentication.
According to a Gemalto report, more than 2.5 billion data records were lost, stolen, or exposed worldwide in 2017, an 88% increase from 2016.
Furthermore, cyber-attacks rake up huge financial losses to the compromised organization and even mere individuals; basically anyone connected to the internet. It is estimated that by 2021, cyber-crime will cause global financial damages of around $6 trillion annually.
Despite the alarming statistics, only 38% of the global organizations are prepared to combat a cyber-attack.
MFA implementation can mitigate cyber-attacks considerably. Organizations with multi-fold authentication in place can strengthen their access security. It not only will help them safeguard the personal assets of their employees and customers, but also protect the company’s integrity and reputation.
Why Multi-factor Authentication System in Apps is good
Numerous variables are taken into consideration during the app development process. You want the app to have a friendly user interface that provides a seamless experience. An appealing graphical design and innovative features are also top priorities.
Furthermore, apps undergo rigorous testing to make them bug-free before releasing into the market. However, security breaches can taint the reputation of your app, especially if it holds sensitive information about the users.
Here is why MFA is a good idea for your app:
As mentioned earlier, MFA can bolster the protection and reduce the risk associated with only password-protected apps. Additional means of authentication not only challenges the users to prove their identity, it can also provide the security team with broader visibility into a possible identity theft.
Moreover, it is not necessary to prompt the user for MFA every time they log into the app. You can use data analytics to trigger MFA for a risk-based approach. Take into account the user’s geographical location, IP address, device in use, etc. before challenging the user’s identity and asking for additional authentication.
High-risk scenarios that justify MFA include logging in from an unknown device or new location, accessing the app from a new IP address, or attempting to gain admission into a highly sensitive resource for the first time.
Opt for risk-based approach only if your app holds valuable and intimate information about your client that can cause irrevocable personal damage to the user if divulged. Otherwise, such an approach requires complex data analytics, machine learning, and contextual recognition that can be difficult and time-consuming to program.
Simplified login process
You may consider MFA implementation as complicated and cumbersome. However, if you have multiple apps under your helm, you can offer more advanced login solutions like single sign-on.
Once the user identity is validated, they can access multiple apps covered under the single sign-on. This practice provides practicality to the MFA process as the users are saved from the fatigue and stress of repeated logins.
Increased customer satisfaction
A customer’s satisfaction and trust is one of the biggest driving factors for any organization. When you offer MFA to your users, it builds a sense of trustworthiness amongst them and they are more at ease when sharing personal details.
Compliance with standards
In addition to the benefits to the users, there are certain compliance standards, mandated by state, federal or other authorities, which specify that companies should implement MFA in explicit situations.
Moreover, there are fixed guidelines from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that help you choose the right verification methods. Therefore, it is imperative that you do not only comply with the regulations but also implement the recommended MFA methods.
The key is to deploy an MFA system that is not too laborious but offers optimal steps of authentication. Given the sheer number of methods available for MFA, choose the most appropriate options based on:
- Sensitivity of the data and assets being protected
- Convenience and ease of usability for the customers
- Compliance with the specific regulations
- Expediting implementation and management for IT department
MFA can strengthen the security of sensitive data and protect the user’s identity. It adds another layer of shield to safeguard the client’s online accounts, obstructing the efforts of dedicated hacking. Moreover, it allows you to comply with the standard guidelines proposed by the authorized officials.
However, individual MFA implementation across different user environments and cloud services can be inconvenient to the users. Deploy single sign-on or adopt risk-based approach to eliminate security vulnerability while facilitating user access.
Mehul Rajput is a CEO and co-founder of Mindinventory which specializes in Android and iOS app development and provide web and mobile app solutions from startup to enterprise level businesses. He is an avid blogger and writes on mobile technologies, mobile app, app marketing, app development, startup and business.