Any application that is available over the internet is vulnerable to hacking. Most of these could have been avoided had it been for good security and password practices. Advancement in the tools at the disposal of hackers has made it easier for them to exploit vulnerabilities. Applications, networks, and devices are no longer safe with a simple username and password.
Leading players like Microsoft have introduced the Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solution to protect users. Their MFA service has been expended to both on-premises and cloud environments for conditional access. Let us compare Office 365 MFA vs Azure MFA, two of the most popular MFA versions provided by Microsoft.
How Does Microsoft MFA Work?
Microsoft MFA protects users by requiring them to provide additional authentication apart from their username and password. This is essentially an additional layer of protection that users need to mandatorily clear and prove their identity to access Microsoft services. The second layer of protection can be enforced by admins in multiple ways:
- Using One Time Password code on a trusted device
- Using biometric identities like retina scan or fingerprint
- Using an additional password
Microsoft MFA service is a part of its Office 365 and Azure subscription plans. The Office 365 multi-factor authentication service is, in fact, a subset of the Azure MFA.
Features of Office 365 MFA
Office 365 MFA can be enabled by the Office 365 global admin from the Admin Center. There are multiple ways in which users can be protected with multi-factor authentication:
Using the Microsoft Authenticator app
The authenticator app is an application installed on your smartphone for either generating an OTP or a push notification which can be used for authenticating applications and other devices.
Using a phone call or text message for authenticating
Alternatively, the central MFA service can be configured to send an SMS with the OTP to a registered mobile number or make a phone call to either a mobile or landline number to confirm the user identity. Like Azure MFA, Office 365 MFA can be used for generating application passwords for non-browser clients.
How Azure MFA is Different from Office 365 MFA?
Azure Multi-Factor Authentication provides many more security features than Office 365 MFA. It offers greater flexibility than the free version. Businesses that need additional security features with the Azure MFA must subscribe to an Azure AD Premium plan or a Microsoft 365 plan as opposed to the regular Office 365 plans. The following additional features will be available once the Azure MFA has been activated.
Businesses with Azure MFA can empower employees to alert admins if they suspect that someone is trying to illegally access the account when they receive an unexpected MFA request on their phone. Instead of hanging up the call without pressing the # sign, users can raise a fraud alert by entering a pre-configured code provided by the organization. Not only will this alert the appropriate team but will also block the account on which the suspicious activity was reported.
Azure MFA provides better insights into the number and types of authentications done in a specific period of time. Admins can generate various generic and specific reports for better control. While with the Summary report, admins can get accurate information broad information like the total number of authentications, and the number of successful and unsuccessful authentications, the User Details consists of more specific information such as authentication date and time, authentication method and access type, apart from the reason for failure, if any. These reports can be exported to Excel sheets and can be used for diagnosing and analyzing frauds, account blocks, and MFA Server status.
Azure MFA provides admins greater control over users. It is possible to block or unblock users. Admins can use the authentication reports to identify rogue access and block such user accounts. Admins can manually unblock users who may have been blocked automatically or otherwise apart from managing details like the user’s phone number for MFA authentication which can be reconfigured when needed. Additionally, admins can even disable MFA for a specific period of time to allow users to access an application with the one-time bypass feature.
While Office 365 MFA can only provide conditional access for cloud applications, Azure Multi-Factor Authentication can be extended beyond Office 365 and the Azure Management Portal. It can even be deployed on-premises. The MFA Server works in such a way that the data remains on-premises, but the authentication is similar to Office 365 cloud services with all the functionalities like self-enrollment and account management. This feature, however, is available only for existing deployments. Newer deployments can use Azure Active Directory Application Proxy for secure remote access to on-premises and cloud web applications. This feature allows users to access applications with features like Conditional Access and two-step verification while providing single-sign-on and remote access to applications like Teams, Tableau, and SharePoint. As a cloud-native feature that seamlessly works with web applications, web API, and rich client applications, Application Proxy helps reduce costs by using existing network infrastructure without the use of extra appliances with the on-premises environment.
MFA Service Customization
Azure MFA provides more customizations over Office 365 MFA. The authentication phone call, for example, can be from the phone number specified by the business rather than the one provided by Microsoft. Similarly, voice greetings can be changed from the default to customized ones. The voice can then be mapped to a specific language and a message type. This functionality is so flexible that it is possible to play different greetings for different applications.
Azure MFA or Office 365 MFA – What to Choose?
By now, we hope that the Office 365 MFA vs Azure MFA comparison does not befuddle you any longer. Azure MFA provides more security and greater flexibility. Unlike the Office 365 MFA, it can even be enforced on hybrid deployments making it a potent solution to protect against threats emanating from various sources that target not just user accounts but an organization’s infrastructure as a whole. Having said that, rolling out Azure MFA is not as simple as it sounds.
In most cases, it requires intricate planning taking into consideration factors like roles, applications, devices, and network specifications. As a Microsoft Gold Partner and a tier 1 CSP for Office 365, Apps4Rent has assisted several businesses in implementing Microsoft products for optimal performance. Our experts provide 24/7 support via phone, chat, and email. Feel free to initiate the chat in the bottom right section below.