Cybersecurity for Remote Workers: The Importance of Multi-Factor Authentication

Last Updated: February 3, 2021

Remote work has become the order of the day. Due to recent happenings in the world, it’s now apparent that much of the work that makes us run to the office can be done from the comfort of our homes. While this revelation is an incredibly soothing one, it comes with its own unique Achilles’ heel— Cybersecurity

Much of remote work is done online, opening up remote workers to the different cyber impunities that can happen. Security in cyberspace is of utmost importance, and shouldn’t be taken for granted by anybody, talk more, a remote worker who is handling sensitive data for an organization. Thankfully, there is a way a remote worker can get that security — Multi-factor Authentication. 

This article would discuss the importance of Multi-factor Authentication, enumerating how it can help the remote worker. 

What Is MFA?

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an electronic authentication mechanism that adds two or more security layers to your computer, application, or file. This means that the users will need to provide two or more authentication forms to access their accounts. With the Multi-factor Authentication, you have more than just a password securing an account. Recent research shows that 91% of people who use MFA are less likely to be hacked than people who use only a pin or password. 

How Does MFA Work? 

Multi-factor Authentication requires two or more methods of security to protect your account. Before you can access that account from a new device, you will need to provide two or more means of identification. All MFA methods of identification fall under three categories:

1. What You Know

This is usually information that is uniquely created by you. It could be a pattern, a password, a pin, etc. 

2. What You Have

This is a token you own that can be used to unlock your accounts or your computer. Examples are a flash drive, an MFA token number, or even your phone.

3. What You Are

This is usually a part of the person’s body that can be used for identification. Examples include your face, fingerprint, your eyes, etc. 

A combination of two or more of any of these can be used as layers of protection. Whenever you try to access your accounts or file, each of these layers of authentication is requested. If anyone of these layers is not provided, then access will be denied. 

Why Do Remote Workers Need MFA? 

The benefits of MFA for remote workers are numerous and go beyond protection from hackers. While this is an integral part of the necessity for it, there are a few more which we have discussed below:

1. More security

One layer of security was never enough, and it is extremely inadequate now. Since remote working became the in thing, the number of phishing attempts have significantly increased. Having an additional layer of security is not an option at the moment. Before now, it was easier to use a centralized security system in the workplace.

Now that security is mostly decentralized, MFA is needed more than ever. It would significantly defend remote workers against phishing attempts, hacking attempts, and direct attacks. With the extra two or more layers of authentication, it would be tough to hack employees. Even if the hacker gets your password and a token, he can never get your fingerprint or scan your iris. This tightens up the security of remote workers real good. 

2. Reduces Security Cost and Strain on Organizations

It is usually the job of a company to provide security for its employees. However, it has become increasingly difficult in the wake of remote working. To give that kind of security to all your workers at home would be rather expensive and tedious. However, using MFA would cancel out the increase in cost and the strain on your security team. MFA can be easily initialized for all remote workers in a non-expensive manner. Also, having to monitor security and safety for people in different places would be automatically eliminated. 

3. Easy to Use

Most times, setting up extensive security can be complicated. Its use can be further complicated and confusing. With MFA, however, you get full protection that is easy to operate. Your workers do not have to stress themselves over security. It becomes as easy as receiving a token, scanning your face, fingerprint, or iris. What could be easier than this? It’s almost close to doing nothing. 

4. Boost in Confidence

In a secure environment, there is more productivity. With the increase in phishing attempts, it would help a remote worker if he knew that he was well protected. Using MFA can bring in that confidence for your remote staff. They would work without fear and be more productive from home. 

Things to Consider Before Setting up MFA

Your organization must be fully ready to use MFA. There are some measures that you should put in place before you set up MFA: 

1. Are your work applications MFA enabled?

Some applications use MFA features to tighten up security; you must use them in your workplace. It is easier to use MFA if it is already available. If it is not, then other applications are specially programmed to help you handle the setting up or MFA for your workplace. 

2. Educate your workers 

Do your workers know about MFA? Are they familiar with how it works? It is vital to ensure that everybody is on the same page. The simple thing you can do here is to hold a webinar for your workers where a member of your IT or security team would explain to everyone how to use the Multi-Factor Authentication. While it may seem very easy to use, it is good to ensure that all your workers are on the same page regarding MFA technology and how it works. 

3. Choose lenient MFA methods and policies

Some MFA methods are less tedious than others. Using the less tedious ones doesn’t mean less security. It just means it’s easy. You can make life easier for your workers, or you can frustrate them. 

Also, the MFA policies you use matters. How many times do your workers have to log in daily? These are factors that matter. While it’s true you are trying to secure the workspace, it’s not advisable to frustrate the workers. 

4. Make plans for mishaps

While everyone hopes there are no mishaps, it is crucial to prepare for one. Anything could happen. A physical token like a USB or phone could go missing. In such situations, it is easier to handle mayhem when you prepare for it. Just put the necessary things in place. Find out what you need to do in the face of a crisis and prepare for it. Some steps that should be taken in such a situation include:

5. Be careful about using OTPs and SMS 

The reason for this is simple. SMS is the means for delivering OTPs (One Time Passwords). While it’s an excellent means to use, it’s vulnerable and exploitable. Hackers can actually port your device number in such a way that they are the ones that receive the OTP message and not the worker. So if you are planning on using OTP as one of your Authentication methods, do ensure that it is not the last layer. If possible, make sure what you have is not the final layer of your MFA. It is better to use what you are (like your fingerprint, eyes, or face). Those are more difficult to tamper with. 

Conclusion

Multi-factor Authentication is one sure way you can protect your workers at home. If you want to stay above all of the hacking and cyber mishaps, then you can secure your company’s data by using Multi-factor Authentication for your online accounts.

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