Oct 19 – NCSAM – What is MFA and Why use it?

As a result of our network incident during the Spring 2021 semester, one of the biggest changes that came to the network so far, is the introduction of Multi Factor Authentication. But what is MFA? Why are we using at MU? How can we best use it? Over the next few days we will take a deeper look.

What is multifactor authentication?

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security technology that requires multiple methods of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify a user’s identity for a login or other transaction. Multifactor authentication combines two or more independent credentials: what the user knows, such as a password; what the user has, such as a security token; and what the user is, by using biometric verification methods.

The goal of MFA is to create a layered defense that makes it more difficult for an unauthorized person to access a target, such as a physical location, computing device, network or database. If one factor is compromised or broken, the attacker still has at least one or more barriers to breach before successfully breaking into the target.

In the past, MFA systems typically relied on two-factor authentication (2FA). Increasingly, companies are using the label multifactor to describe any authentication scheme that requires two or more identity credentials to decrease the possibility of a cyber attack. Multifactor authentication is a core component of an identity and access management framework.

Why is multifactor authentication important?

One of the biggest shortcomings of traditional user ID and password logins is that passwords can be easily compromised, potentially costing organizations millions of dollars. Brute-force attacks are also a real threat, as bad actors can use automated password cracking tools to guess various combinations of usernames and passwords until they find the right sequence. Although locking an account after a certain number of incorrect login attempts can help protect an organization, hackers have numerous other methods for system access. This is why multifactor authentication is so important, as it can help reduce security risks.

If you have questions about Duo and/or MFA, contact the Help Desk at 717-871-7777 or via email at help@millersville.edu.