Multi-factor authentication (MFA) uses multiple means of authenticating a user’s identity before providing access to a system or service. This makes account takeover attacks more difficult because an attacker needs to gain access to all required authentication factors to access a user’s account.
Password security is a major challenge for many organizations. Employees and customers commonly use weak and reused passwords that are potentially guessable, and even strong passwords can be compromised by malware or phishing attacks. With access to a user’s password, an attacker has legitimate access to all of a user’s accounts that use the same credentials.
Multi-Factor Authentication protects against these types of attacks by using multiple different means of authenticating the user’s identity. Even if the user’s password is compromised, the attacker also needs access to other authentication factors.
As its name suggests, multi-factor authentication requires multiple authentication factors to gain access to a user’s account. Many different types of MFA exist, using a range of authentication factors. An authentication factor is a means of proving a user’s identity to a system. Most authentication factors fall into one of three categories:
An MFA system should use a combination of two of these three categories. For example, the most common option is a combination of something you know (a password) and something you have (a device that generates/receives a one-time code).
MFA can be implemented with a wide range of factors. Some common examples include:
Different authentication factors provide different levels of security and convenience. For example, passwords and SMS-based OTP are commonly regarded as insecure factors for MFA, but they are still in common use. Passwordless MFA refers to the use of a possession-based and inherence-based factor for MFA, eliminating insecure knowledge-based factors like the password.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a particular type of Multi-Factor Authentication. 2FA uses exactly two authentication factors, while MFA uses two or more. For highly sensitive systems or risky operations, MFA with three or more factors may be required to more strongly validate a user’s identity.
Support for Multi-Factor Authentication is essential for account security as single-factor authentication runs the risk that factors may be guessed, stolen, or otherwise compromised. Check Point solutions offer strong account security with MFA, including:
To learn more about integrating zero-trust security best practices and identity management into the distributed enterprise, check out this guide by ESG. Then, feel free to sign up for a free demo of Harmony Connect and see how to deploy ZTNA in five minutes or less.