Atlantic.Net Blog

What Is MFA as a Service?

MFA as a Service, or Multi-Factor Authentication as a Service, is a security identification platform various cloud-based applications use to secure private access to a particular service.

MFA enhances the protection of online accounts and systems by requiring multiple forms of verification from the user. MFA provides user identities with an extra layer of security beyond the traditional username and password combination.

By requiring that user accounts have multiple authentication factors, it becomes significantly more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access to a user account, even if they can obtain one of the authentication factors.

Join us as we learn what MFA is, how you can implement MFA in your environment, and why MFA as a service will make your life much easier.

What is MFA and Why is it Important?

Typically, multi-factor authentication involves three main factors.

  1. Something you know: This factor requires knowledge of a secret piece of information that only you, the authorized user, should know, such as a password, PIN, or an answer to a security question.
  2. Something you have: This factor involves possessing a physical item (such as hardware tokens) that verifies your identity, such as a security token, smart card, or mobile device. Typically, the ‘thing’ generates a unique code that changes frequently, such as an RSA code. The codes are used as part of the authentication process.
  3. Something you are: This factor involves a unique physical characteristic or biometric trait of the user, such as a fingerprint, iris scan, voice recognition, or facial recognition. Biometrics are increasingly used in MFA to provide a highly secure and convenient form of identification.

MFA solutions can be complex and resource-heavy but are an excellent choice for delivering security functionalities over the cloud. Businesses can choose to go it alone and implement a private MFA solution; however, these are expensive to license, complicated to install, and difficult to manage.

A hugely popular alternative is the MFA solution as a service. Managed multi-factor authentication (MFA) platforms give businesses access to a comprehensive, scalable, and configurable multi-factor authentication solution. It enables organizations to enhance security without the need for extensive technical expertise.

Benefits of Outsourcing MFA-as-a-Service

Outsourcing MFA-as-a-Service offers several advantages that can improve an organization’s efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and security posture.

Here are some of the critical benefits of MFA as a service:

Ease of Implementation:

MFA-as-a-service providers manage the complex deployment process of access management solutions. Organizations can quickly implement an MFA solution without needing extensive in-house IT expertise and readily available staff resources. A managed MFA service reduces the complexity and time required to implement an effective MFA solution.

Reduce Costs:

A cloud-based multi-factor authentication service operates on a subscription basis, making it an operational expenditure (Opex) rather than a capital expense (Capex). Opex eliminates the need for hefty upfront investment in hardware and software licensing while reducing ongoing maintenance costs. Further cost savings can be introduced with 1-3 year subscription discounts.

Scalability:

MFA-as-a-service can scale up or down according to the needs of the business. As an organization grows, additional users can be added to the multi-factor authentication system effortlessly. Conversely, during quieter periods, the service can be scaled down. The scalability reduces the licensing headache, making rapid development possible in the cloud, unlike monolithic data centers.

Continuous Updates and Innovation:

The service provider handles updates and upgrades to the MFA platform, including all the security hardening that takes place behind the scenes, such as encryption keys and server agents.

Ensuring that the MFA system always uses the latest technology and security protocols is essential in the rapidly evolving security industry, helping your business keep pace with evolving cybersecurity threats.

Better Compliance Management:

Some MFA-as-a-service providers excel at supporting compliance requirements, such as HIPAA, HITECH, PCI, and GDPR.

All forms of compliance require numerous layers of security controls, and MFA is a technology that spans every state of compliance.

Therefore, organizations adhering to data protection laws authentication policies, and regulations will benefit from MFA as a service.

Enhanced Security:

Most importantly, outsourcing MFA as a service will foster an enhanced security posture for business accounts. Specialist providers have the resources and expertise to provide cutting-edge, multi-layered authentication protocols that most businesses need help implementing independently.

24/7 Support:

The best MFA providers offer round-the-clock support to address issues or queries quickly. Access to a continuous support model ensures minimal disruption to business operations if encountering a problem.

What Are MFA Solutions?

We know that Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solutions are security measures designed to protect a corporate network against unauthorized access. These solutions are based on the premise that two-factor authentication, combining multiple factors of secure authentication, significantly enhances security, making it much more difficult for unauthorized individuals to gain access.

Did you know that conditional access policies are implemented in many very different ways:

On-Premises Advanced Authentication Services: These involve setting up servers and software in-house. They typically require significant investment in hardware, software, and IT resources, but they offer a high level of control.

Cloud-Based and MFA as a Service: These are hosted by a third-party provider and delivered over the Internet. They require minimal upfront investment in hardware and software tokens and are easy to scale, but they necessitate a certain level of trust in the provider’s security measures.

Hybrid MFA Solutions: These combine on-premises and cloud-based solutions, allowing an organization to leverage the benefits of both models.

Regardless of the form they take, MFA solutions play a crucial role in a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, providing an extra layer of defense that helps protect sensitive data and systems from cyber threats.

Why Do You Need An MFA Solution?

MFA is a proven and reliable technology. Considering how your life has changed in the last decade concerning proving your identity, it’s fair to say that MFA is everywhere.

Here are just a few areas to consider:

Enhanced Security: The primary reason for implementing a multi-factor authentication solution is to bolster security. With MFA as a Service, you add multiple layers of your identity management and access management solution and verification, which enhance the security of your systems – whether it’s for online account security, accessing VPNs, or using cloud services. This way, even if a password is compromised, the additional authentication factors provide an extra line of defense.

Regulatory Compliance: In industries such as banking, where data sensitivity is high, regulations often necessitate certain levels of data security. An MFA solution can help these organizations meet regulatory requirements, such as online banking, where MFA as a Service is crucial for safeguarding customer information and fulfilling legal obligations.

Protection Against Phishing and Other Attacks: MFA is particularly effective against common cyber threats such as phishing attacks. Even if a user is tricked into revealing their password for a mobile application, an attacker would still need to bypass the MFA system, making unauthorized access to a registered device much more challenging.

Increasing Trust and Confidence: For businesses, having robust security measures like MFA can increase the confidence of customers, partners, and stakeholders. MFA as a Service is a commitment to protecting sensitive data, for example, by securing access to Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems, which could significantly enhance your stakeholders’ trust.

Adapting to Remote Work: The shift towards remote work has expanded the digital perimeter of businesses, making them more vulnerable to attacks. MFA provides an essential layer of security that can protect remote workers regardless of location, such as securing virtual meetings and collaboration tools or granting remote desktop access.

Reducing the Impact of Password Reuse: Many users reuse passwords across multiple accounts. If one account, such as a password manager, is compromised, it could also lead to others being accessed. MFA as a Service reduces the risk associated with password reuse by necessitating additional authentication steps, offering an extra layer of protection.

By integrating multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions into workforce applications and other platforms, businesses can significantly enhance their security posture and the overall safety of business users and their digital assets.

3 Key Questions To Ask Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Providers

When preparing to outsource your MFA requirements to a managed services provider, asking the right questions is crucial to ensure they can meet your organization’s unique needs.

Here are three key questions Atlantic.Net recommends you consider asking. They will give you a good insight into how the business provider operates and help you to determine if they are up to the standards you demand.

What Kind of Authentication Methods Do You Support?

MFA is most effective when it offers flexibility to the end-users. Ask the provider about the types of authentication methods they support – these could include biometrics, mobile apps, SMS, physical hardware tokens, or others. The broader the range, the more effective security controls and better the solution will cater to diverse user preferences and situations

Each authentication method has its pros and cons, and its effectiveness can vary depending on the specific context and application.

Here’s a brief overview:

  • Knowledge-Based Authentication: This includes passwords, PINs, or security questions. They are the most common form of authentication but can also be vulnerable if not used correctly (such as using weak passwords or quickly guessable security answers).
  • Possession-Based Authentication: This method requires users to possess a specific device or item, like a mobile phone (authentication apps) or a hardware token (Duo security). Authentication codes can be delivered via SMS or email or generated by an app (like Google Authenticator) or physical hardware tokens. Identity management features also come into play in third-party solutions such as single sign-on OAUTH, Ping Identity, or Cisco Secure Access.

    A physical hardware token can provide a high level of security but can also be inconvenient if the user loses the device or token. Configuring passwordless authentication single sign-on solutions is also possible using tokens and authenticator apps.

  • Biometrics: This includes fingerprints, facial recognition, voice recognition, and other biometric data. Biometric authentication can provide high security and convenience, as they are unique to each user and always “with” the user. However, they require specialized hardware (such as a fingerprint scanner or a device with a camera), and there can be privacy concerns around the storage and use of biometric data.

    Biometric factors have become much more popular in recent years because of mobile phones. It’s much easier to send mobile push notifications, SMS messages, or request a fingerprint scan from an authenticator app. Making each login attempt easier for each user’s access, and when combined with contextual factors, push notification single sign-on becomes highly secure.

  • Location-Based Authentication: This method allows access based on the user’s location. This is often used in conjunction with other strategies for added security, such as IP reputation, to track suspicious user activity.
  • Behavior-Based Authentication: includes keystroke dynamics, mouse movement patterns, and other behavior patterns. While these methods can provide an additional layer of security, they can also be more complex to implement and use.
  • Risk-Based Authentication: is a dynamic method of verifying a user’s identity, providing additional layers of security when needed. This approach considers the risk associated with a particular user action and then adjusts the level of authentication required based on that perceived risk. For instance, a user attempting to access a system from a familiar location might only need a password. If you use PayPal, you will have probably witnessed this type of adaptive authentication.

How Do You Handle User Enrollment and Recovery Processes?

A smooth user experience is critical for the success of an MFA implementation. Ask about the provider’s processes for using authentication policies enrolling new users, using authentication requirements, and handling account recovery in case a user loses physical access to their account.

A good MFA service provider will balance security with usability, making these processes as smooth as possible.

  • User Enrollment: The user enrollment process is the first interaction a user has with the MFA system, and a positive initial experience can set the tone for subsequent interactions. This process should be simple, intuitive, and secure. Ask the provider if they offer step-by-step guides, user-friendly interfaces, and options to choose from multiple authentication factors according to the user’s preference. Understanding how the provider deals with bulk enrollments can be helpful, especially for larger organizations.
  • Account Recovery: In instances where a user loses access to an authentication factor (for example, if they lose their phone where the authentication app is installed), the account recovery process comes into play. The process should be secure enough to prevent unauthorized account access but also user-friendly to minimize downtime. It would help if you inquired about the methods available for account recovery. This could be via email, secondary phone numbers, security questions, or even biometrics. Importantly, ask about the safeguards in place to verify the user’s identity during the recovery process, as this stage can be an attractive target for attackers.

How Do You Ensure Compliance with Relevant Regulations?

In specific industries, there are stringent regulations regarding data privacy and security. It’s essential to ask how the provider ensures compliance with these regulations, particularly around storing and handling user authentication and data breaches. This is especially crucial if your business operates in regulated industries like healthcare or finance.

Your chosen multi-factor authentication (MFA) provider should be ready to support you in this area. Here are some points to consider when posing this question:

  • Data Protection Laws: Your provider should be able to assure you that they comply with relevant data protection laws, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the U.S. Ask about their data handling and storage practices, including where data is stored and how it’s protected.
  • Industry-Specific Regulations: If you’re in an industry like healthcare or finance, there will be additional regulations you need to comply with, like HIPAA or GLBA. Ask the provider if they have experience with these regulations and if their service has features designed to help customers maintain compliance.
  • Certifications and Audits: Learn about the provider’s security certifications and audits. Certifications like ISO 27001 can indicate a provider’s commitment to security, while regular third-party audits can provide assurances that the provider’s security practices are up to standard.
  • Encryption and Security Measures: The provider should use strong encryption for all data and provide robust security measures, like secure development practices and regular vulnerability testing.
  • Data Privacy and Control: Ask how they handle data privacy, what personal data they collect, who has access to it, and how it can be controlled or deleted. In the context of GDPR and similar laws, the provider should have clear policies around data control.

The provider should be able to give clear, detailed answers to all of these questions. Their ability to support your compliance efforts can significantly affect your risk level and the overall success of your MFA implementation.

Self-Service Capabilities to Gain Access

Having self-service options will streamline the entire multi-factor authentication process. Self-service features should allow users to efficiently enroll themselves, including choosing the type of second factor used for authentication methods.

Users should have the ability to recover or reset their own authentication factors quickly if they forget a password, lose a hardware token, or have a new phone number or device. This key feature not only saves time for the user but also reduces the burden on IT support.

Some identity providers offer a self-service portal to enable users to easily access authorization and switch between authentication methods. For example, if a user loses their mobile device, they should be able to access security and quickly change to another form of secure authentication.

In much larger organizations, it might be beneficial to have a self-service feature where users can manage access to specific data or systems. The ability for users to update their account information is a game changer for MFA at scale.

The Atlantic.Net Managed Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Service

“Secure access to your digital assets and protect your business from cyber threats with Atlantic.Net’s Managed Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) services. This service provides an additional layer of security by verifying users’ identities before granting access to your local network or server environment. It’s not just about knowing the proper credentials; it’s also about having the correct device.

Atlantic.Net’s MFA service integrates with most on-premise and cloud mobile apps, offering a range of verification and authentication methods, from SMS passcodes to phone callbacks and time-based one-time passcodes. It even provides bypass codes for single-event access or in case of lost devices.

The service doesn’t stop at identity verification. It also checks the health of each device, ensuring the presence of vital security controls and up-to-date software. This way, high-risk or infected machines can be easily blocked, reducing your vulnerabilities and minimizing access to your confidential data.

Don’t wait for a security breach to happen. Take control of your digital security today with Atlantic.Net’s Managed MFA services. Contact us now to learn more!

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