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How Multi-Factor Authentication Bolsters Organizational Security Posture

Kirk Savidis

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In today’s digital landscape, security incidents, and cyber-attacks have become increasingly prevalent. CISA reported that worldwide, consumers lost $358 and 21 hours on average per year, dealing with online crime. Organizations of all sizes are recognizing the need for multi-factor authentication (MFA) when it comes to protecting their sensitive data.

So far in 2023, password management systems have been a main target for hackers. LastPass recently reported a breach in data leading to customer account information and sensitive vault data exposure. MFA provides an additional layer of security intending to deter criminals from gaining access to sensitive data and systems. In this blog article, our experts will lay out the importance of multi-factor authentication that is enforced at the organizational level, and how it deters criminals.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security process that requires employees to authenticate their identity or role at an organization using at least two different methods of authentication. These methods can include:

  • Knowledge-based authentication: such as an additional password or pin
  • Biometric technology: such as a fingerprint or facial recognition
  • Token-based authentication: such as a smart card or USB key

The concept of MFA isn’t anything new – it has been used by businesses and government agencies for years – but with the rise in cyber threats, organizations are turning to this secure approach as part of their overall security plan.

A single point of failure exists with traditional username and password authentication. If an unauthorized user obtains a user’s password, they can use those credentials to access sensitive data immediately. With MFA, even if an unauthorized user were to obtain a user’s password, they would still need to pass the second factor of authentication – which is much more difficult to achieve and often is a deterrent. 

As a bonus, multi-factor authentication also allows organizations to better track employee activity – including logins from unusual locations – which can help them identify suspicious behavior quickly and prevent data breaches before they occur.

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How MFA Assists with Compliance Regulations

MFA also helps organizations across all industries comply with regulations and data protection laws, including the following five:

HIPAA: It’s crucial that Covered Entities and Business Associates have a clear understanding of HIPAA password requirements and adhere to them correctly. Not only does this help secure sensitive data, but it also mitigates potential costly HIPAA violations that could arise from non-compliance. A recent The HIPAA Journal article noted that while HIPAA password requirements is not straightforward, MFA does play a key role in protecting information.

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS): PCI DSS v4.0 included the expansion of Requirement 8 to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all access into the cardholder data environment.

SOC 2: SOC 2 standards exist to help protect customer data. To ensure compliance and safeguard against security breaches, MFA is a foundational security layer to prevent unauthorized access to data.

Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) was created to help protect shareholders, employees and the public from accounting errors and fraudulent financial practices. Building on this protection, the SEC OCIE Cybersecurity and Resiliency recommendations outline that organizations should implement MFA for mobile devices and applications.

GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act): Also known as the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, GLBA is a federal law enacted in the United States to control the ways financial institutions deal with the private information of individuals.

These regulations require organizations to take appropriate measures to protect sensitive information and personal data. MFA provides an additional layer of protection to ensure that unauthorized users do not gain access to sensitive information.

Role of MFA in Cybersecurity Insurance Requirements

Cyberattacks have been dramatically increasing in size and scope, affecting companies of all sizes and industries. On the MFA front, Microsoft reported that there are over 300 million fraudulent sign-in attempts to Microsoft cloud services every day. This stat is just one example of why the ability to buy cyber insurance has become more complex – from finding an insurer for your company, to a successful underwriting and application process.

It is also why, according to NFP, every cyber liability insurance carrier is now asking supplemental questions around MFA such as whether it is enforced if employees can access email through a web app on a non-corporate device and whether they use it to protect privileged user accounts. In today’s environment, MFA should be non-negotiable for all businesses and individuals.

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Overall, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an essential component of any organization’s cybersecurity strategy; it helps protect valuable data against malicious actors while providing extra layers of assurance that only authorized people to have access to the system. With its numerous advantages both from a security perspective and a compliance standpoint, there’s no reason why any organization shouldn’t consider implementing multi-factor authentication today.

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