A few years back, every organization had only one point of access for their data, applications and other resources—the organization’s database. However, today, from LAN, WAN, and VPN to cloud applications, every organization has numerous points of access. This increases the vulnerability of the data as well as the level of complexity and hence requires a comprehensive security approach. This is where multi-factor authentication (MFA) steps in—a security measure that provides an extra layer of protection over the traditional identification method of using username and password. MFA makes it difficult for an unauthorized person to access targets such as a physical location, computing device, network, or database. The approach combines two or more independent credentials: what the user knows (via password) and what the user has (using a security token) and who the user is (via biometric verification). Even if one of these authorization steps is broken, an attacker has another barrier to breach before successfully breaking into the target.
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There are few key areas where changes in accessibility are likely to affect authorization—cloud applications, privileged accounts, and virtual private networks—but integrating MFA will transform the secure access in these areas. From Microsoft Office 365 to Salesforce, the applications that are imperative in an organization are mostly in the cloud. Many cloud applications to date rely on the traditional username/password combination to manage access, making it an easy target and putting all of the critical data in those applications at risk. Users and IT managers find it tedious having to work with different tools and rules for disparate cloud service providers. Privileged accounts, which are a means for administrators to log in to servers, switches, firewalls, databases, and other applications they need to manage, also have access to an organization’s most critical assets. Privileged accounts rely on usernames and passwords for administrative access. Given the criticality of the resources these accounts protect, it’s important to level up the security with another layer of authentication. And, MFA provides that extra protection and helps to ensure only the right users gain access to the account.
Additionally, virtual private networks (VPN) aren’t just essential points of access for employees of an organization, but also the contractors, vendors, customers, partners, audit teams, and others who collaborate with an organization. And in order to provide secure access to them, every organization needs a solution that offers the assurance that users requesting VPN access are verified users. Combining MFA with other identity security solutions such as single sign-on (SSO) and least privilege access serves as a much stronger and reliable security approach.