Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Overview

Security breaches are very common these days. Gone are the days when just a simple username/password was sufficient for data security. Password is just one-factor authentication. Simply relying on passwords to secure your data is equal to writing physical letters in the era of emails.

Data is crucial which is very vulnerable to outside attacks. That is why, we need something more than just passwords to secure the systems.

The Multi-Factor Authentication, simply called as MFA, is a multi-step verification method which requires more than one authentication method. The extra layers of security are added to your online interactions (signups and transactions), which helps in keeping your account safe.

Passwords aren’t just enough

In a complex digital world, you need to secure your data against hackers and potential threats. As mentioned earlier, passwords can be easily broken by various means. There are several possibilities how your security can be broken – robotic password generators, social hacking, ransomware trying to barge in, or some ex-employee misusing his past company credentials. These are just a few examples, but there are many other scenarios where your security can be very fragile.

The bottom line is – you simply just can’t rely on passwords.

If you are using multiple devices, and if you don’t know whether they are legitimate logins (your own verified users or unknown sources trying to break into your password-protected site), your data security stands on thin waters.

Why MFA be used at all?

MFA is quite a popular method of authentication in recent years. You already have been using two-factor authentication in your day-to-day activities. For instance, while withdrawing cash from ATM (Hardware token: Debit Card + Password) or login for internet banking (One Time Password + Regular Password).

With two-factor authentication, even if somebody knows your password, they would still need access to second-factor resources like your mobile, email, or even a thumbprint. So, if a hacker wants to steal your data, he will need to break your thumb print impressions too (if biometrics is selected), in addition to your password.

It helps you in a secure access of your websites, electronic carts, backends, or any applications by adding more levels to access your crucial data. One of the benefits with MFA is that you allow access to only those users who are permitted by you.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication on Azure?

Well, Azure is Microsoft’s cloud offering which is arguably considered safer than its competitors. Apart from its obvious benefits of high redundancy, agility, and scalability, it allows a robust MFA feature that adds many layers to your secure authentication.

Azure MFA protects any unauthorized access to data, taking away the apprehensions of security in cloud-based systems

Benefits of MFA in Azure

  • Scalability: Integrates with your on-premise Active Directory and custom apps with the power of cloud. Even your high-volume, mission critical scenarios can be protected with MFA.
  • Reliability: Azure MFA is highly reliable as it is available 99.9% of the time.
  • Single sign-in made easy: There is only one-time username and password. You don’t need to remember passwords time and again.
  • Highest standards: Data is always protected due to highest level of authentication standards.

What are the different MFA methods?

Azure MFA is fairly simple, scalable and a reliable option that offers extra blankets of security to protect the user accounts. It can be secured with two or more than the following elements:

Something you know:

  • Passwords
    The password is the first level security for authentic access by a user. Along with the combination of username, security systems are built around this preliminary method. This qualifies something as what the user can know while securing its account.
  • Security Questions
    The users are given pre-defined security questions that they need to answer to proceed for a sign-in. This is generally asked during passwords recovery. This added security question helps alleviate the risk of illegal access to your information.

Something you have

  • Mobile Device
    This can be done either via text message, phone call or an app notification. The PIN is sent to the mobile when the user selects any of the ways. The log-in will be successful only when the user enters the correct verification number received on the mobile device.
  • Hardware Tokens
    This is in form of a physical device that can be carried by the user for authentication purposes. The examples of hardware tokens can be RFID-enabled chips, smart cards, USB devices, key fobs, or any custom-built hardware for authentication purposes.
  • Software Tokens
    These are basically software applications that generate one-time password required for authentication. Generally, asks a pop-up notification on smartphone to allow authentication. An authentication through email or an app notification can be classified under this category.

Something you are

  • Biometrics
    Biometrics is also one way to secure the authentication. It allows access only after the correct biometrics have been provided which includes scanning of thumbprints, retina, or face. It requires your physical presence as it scans your imprints of your thumbs, eyes or face.

Somewhere you are

  • GPS
    GPS can be used for location-based contextual authentications to verify the user identity. It includes geolocation, IP location, mobile location, time of the day to assure the user validation.

How do you use an MFA in Azure?

Using Multi-Factor Authentication with Azure is really a vast topic, which we will discuss in brief in our later articles. Before anything else, you must answer this question before using Multi-Factor Authentication: What needs to be secure?

Are you securing an application? Are you securing the complete website or just few parts of it? Or anything else?

To use MFA in Azure, you must clearly know what you are trying to secure. It can be anything that resides in the Microsoft Cloud or runs through Microsoft Cloud – for example Office 365 and other applications, website, electronic cart, credentials page, payment gateway, or simply anything for that matter.

For other applications that are running outside the Microsoft Cloud properties, the implementation is done on an MFA Server platform. There are significant differences between Azure MFA and MFA server in capabilities and suitability. Depending on what needs to be secure, you may need an MFA solution that suits your requirement.

Summing up

The possibilities for using MFA are endless. Though it is simple and easy to use, there are many nuances to it which needs to be monitored on a regular basis. The overwhelming number of choices in MFA make it complex. If you want to the complete benefits of MFA to rock-guard your security, you might want to do it in correct way. To do it right, an expert guidance is required. At least for the first time.

Our expert team at Apps4Rent can guide you in securing your applications and data through MFA.

We’ve just scratched the surface on Azure MFA. There are many other nuances of it that include user location, features, licenses. We’ll discuss those topics in our forthcoming articles.

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