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Beyond Passwords - Exploring Multi-Factor Authentication for IAM

    Getting access to a company’s resources through passwords is an outdated process. With cybersecurity threats increasing by the day, there are new methods of authentication in place. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a set of policies and procedures of information technology that allow you to control who gets access to the company’s resources. When there are so many employees in an organization, it can be difficult to track all the passwords. Most of the time, employees forget their passwords, and setting a new one can put all your resources in a tailspin.

    Multi-Factor Authentication

    Defining IAM

    The expansion of remote and hybrid work modes has blurred the lines of the workplace. When people are working from home, they use their own devices and most often use public servers. As a result, users can access their workplace resources from any location. This new paradigm requires organizations to be vigilant to protect their information, and that is where IAM assessment comes into practice.

    IAM, or Identity Access Management, is a system where organizations set up their particular rules and regulations to identify their employees. Each employee is given a digital identity that allows the organization to identify and authorize access to particular resources. Administrators and IT managers define the processes to monitor the employees’ IAM by using various security measures.

    An IAM can consist of various security systems depending upon the type of business requirement. Each system depends on the number of users and the access they have to a particular resource. The four major security systems in IAM include:

    • Sign-on systems
    • Two-factor authentication
    • Multifactor authentication
    • Privileged access management

    Single password authentication is prone to cybersecurity attacks as the hacker can easily get access to the user’s core information. Two-factor authentication and privileged access mainly work for people who need to provide access to two or more people. MFA (Multifactor authentication), the process of Identity and Access Management(IAM) become easier. We will explore the Multifactor Authentication System as it is the most pivotal security system for an organization with hundreds of employees.

    What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?

    A Multifactor authentication system is one in which a user provides two or more verification factors that are used to get access to a particular source of information. Instead of getting access through an email address or a password, MFA requires a user to provide three or four forms of authentication.

    Let’s say a user wants to get access to an online workplace. The user will enter a name or a password to pass through the first phase of authentication. The next step will require the user to enter a pin number to validate the security system further. Once the pin is verified, the user will enter a fingerprint to get access to the resources finally.

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines MFA as an authentication process where two or more factors are used to verify the credentials of a user. Thus, multifactor authentication comes in all shapes and sizes. These verification factors may include an application, an online account, or a VPN. All these factors are essential in ensuring that each individual working in the organization feels secure while working.

    MFA methods for IAM

    MFA spearheads the revolution in IT security with a foolproof authentication process. It offers a reliable security system for an organization. According to the numbers by Statista, 62 percent of enterprise organizations use MFA whereas the remaining 38 percent of small and medium organizations continue to use outdated methods of IT security to protect their company's resources.

    There are multiple MFA methods that can be used to provide security to IAM. These methods are specifically designed to provide companies with a secure working environment. The most effective MFA methods for IAM include FIDO security keys. Virtual Authentication Apps and TOTP hardware tokens. Each of these methods works differently on different devices, such as laptops, androids, and iPhones. Let us take a look at each of these methods in detail so you can decide which method is best suited for your company.

    → FIDO security keys

    Fast Identity Online (FIDO) security keys are provided by third parties to ensure that your security system is running properly. It employs biological factors such as fingerprint identification to get access to your online accounts. These security keys can be used in all types of operating systems, such as Windows, iOS, Linux, Android devices, and iPhones.

    With a FIDO security key, you can save your resources from phishing. You no longer have to worry about getting spam emails where a single link could destroy your whole database. FIDO security keys ensure that unknown users do not have access to your information one way or the other.

    → TOTP

    The Time-based one-time password is a temporary password that is generated according to the time of the day. It is a part of the MFA where a user logs in with a password and then gets another code that lasts for a minute or thirty seconds. This type of authentication keeps your resources safe. A hacker can get to the first password, but with a TOTP hardware token, they cannot get access to the code generated by an application in real time.

    The TOTP hardware token only works when the operating system has a real-time clocking ability. These tokens are easy to maintain in mobile devices because their time is set automatically by syncing it with the cellular network clock. However, an organization must have a single parameter to define specific time zones for desktops, laptops, and the devices used by their employees.

    → Authentication Apps

    When you open an application and get a text message with a code, you use authentication. The authentication apps working these days take this a step further by providing you with a code directly from your phone. In an open server where anyone can access all the information under the sun, an authentication app helps prove the identity of the user by using a Time-based one-time password.

    This is a part of the MFA, where the app provides you with a code at the time of login or TOTP. These codes last for thirty seconds, making it almost impossible for an unknown user to get access to a particular resource. Authentication apps come in all shapes and sizes depending on your device and operating system. These applications include Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator, or Authy.

    Why Does MFA Work?

    Multifactor Authentication works because it caters to the essential requirements of an organization. By providing employees with a comprehensive security system, the MFA keeps an eye on any irregularities that might occur in a digital workplace. By using multiple steps to authenticate a user, the chances of infiltration by a hacker are reduced to zero.

    Final Words

    According to the latest numbers by Microsoft, MFA successfully blocks 99.9 percent of automated cyberattacks across multiple devices, websites, and networks. It is the most reliable form of protection against cyberattacks. Almost all business corporations are investing in MFA to protect their resources from anonymous attacks and malware. Integrating the MFA protocols with the help of trusted service providers such as NordVPN can improve its efficiency manifold as it provides a one in all solution for security issues.

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