How Can Multi-Factor Authentication Harden Your Cybersecurity Defenses?

Businesses typically increase their cybersecurity budgets year-over-year while hackers appear to breach networks at an alarming rate. Greater investment leading to more hacks seems counterintuitive on the surface. However, statistics support the fact both are occurring.

A recent study conducted by Deloitte and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center discovered that financial services organizations now spend upwards of 10 percent of their IT budgets on cybersecurity alone. In many cases, that equals $1,300 to $3,000 per employee annually. If those figures don’t quite hit home, consider that Microsoft invests more than $1 billion in cybersecurity.

Enterprise IT Services experts, such as Greg LaScala predict $6 trillion will be spent on cybersecurity worldwide in 2021. Such eye-raising investment would seem worthwhile if it were not for these frightening statistics about data breaches.

  • A cyber-attack occurs every 39 seconds
  • Approximately 43 percent of cyber-attacks target small businesses
  • Since the coronavirus pandemic, the FBI reported a 300-percent increase in cyber-crime
  • More than 93 percent of healthcare sector organizations report being attacked
  • Human error accounts for 95 percent of all data breaches

Industry decision-makers may be left scratching their heads wondering why they invest so much hard-earned revenue into cybersecurity when hackers appear to have the upper hand. One solution that industry leaders are leveraging is multi-factor authentication.

The primary reason that multi-factor authentication has emerged as a sound cybersecurity investment stems from the last statistic: 95 percent of data breaches are attributed to human error. Those missteps may include falling prey to a phishing scheme, sharing a password, or just losing a device with access to your business network.

How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work?

To non-technology experts, managed IT and cybersecurity may seem complicated. But the core reasoning and methodologies behind defenses such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) are quite simple. MFA can be understood by bringing together two basic items: “something you know” with “something you have.”

In terms of accessing a business network, the “something you have” typically refers to someone’s login profile. The something you know, in this instance, can be something along the lines of a time-based, one-off password.

In MFA cybersecurity strategies, an authentication app generates a unique password each time someone starts the process of accessing company data. Cybersecurity experts and industry leaders widely agree that this strategy acts as a powerful defense against data breaches because the unique one-time password is sent to a secondary device, out of a hacker’s reach.

How Do Hackers Trick Employees?

Digital thieves have more than enough deceptive tools at their disposal to trip-up employees. Chief among these tricks are phishing schemes. The basic premise of a phishing scam is to send out bulk generic emails or targeted messages that gain employee confidence. According to FBI statistics, phishing schemes ranked among the top three methods used in online crime during 2019.

Needless to say, cybercriminals will not stop trolling honest employees until a secure defense has been put in place to prevent phishing scheme success. MFA delivers precisely the hardened defense that organizations require. With MFA, breaching your network and pilfering off digital assets requires a cybercriminal to trick the worker into giving away their login profile information, and also have control of the secondary device. That’s why MFA is both simple and brilliant.

Why Hasn’t Every Business Implemented MFA?

There are wide-ranging reasons why organizations have not yet implanted MFA. Some appear to make practical sense, at least on the surface. But many times, decision-makers are under the impression that odds of getting hacked are in their favor. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are common reasons why industry leaders drag their feet on MFA.

  • Cumbersome: Many indicate that using two devices to log into a network is tedious.
  • Cost: Many small and mid-sized organizations already feel a financial strain and they postpone MFA investment.
  • Bandwidth: Industry leaders feel pressured to complete profit-driving tasks that require immediate attention. Implementing a new cybersecurity strategy seems like one more thing that can wait.

While all of these reasons seem to be driven by pragmatism, entrepreneurs and CEOs may want to consider a terrifying statistic. During the 2020 RSA Security Conference, Microsoft identity security director Alex Weinert pointed out that 1.2 million Microsoft accounts were compromised in January. Of those hit, 99.9 percent failed to use MFA.

How To Simplify MFA & Harden Your Defenses

Sending a security code to a secondary device delivers enhanced security. But for business leaders who consider this two-device process a productivity impediment, there are other more palatable forms of MFA. These include the following.

  • Personal Identification Number (PIN)
  • Additional Security Questions
  • Fingerprint Recognition
  • Retinal Scan Recognition
  • Voice Pattern Recognition
  • Facial Recognition

Multi-factor authentication has been widely adopted by industries that include banking, finance, government, health care, and even Facebook offers this security measure. A recent Google report found that sending a code to a secondary device can block 100 percent of automated cyber-attacks, 99 percent of bulk email phishing schemes, and 90 percent of attacks in which cybercriminals worked to gain the user’s confidence.

If you are a thought leader who wants to harden your cybersecurity defenses, these are powerful reasons to contact a third-party expert and implement a determined MFA strategy.

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