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July 26, 2017 • 4 minute read

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (and How Do You Implement it?)

As a company, it’s important to provide the best security for your customers. And with so many potential ways for strangers to hack into accounts and steal someone’s identity, a foolproof way to verify your customer’s identity is crucial – for your business and for your customers. While a simple password may help, requiring additional factors of authentication increases both privacy and security.

As data and security breach incidents skyrocket across industries, companies are getting more serious than ever about implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). MFA is a type of security measure that requires more than one method of credentials to identify and verify users’ identities. The main goal of offering MFA is to establish numerous boundaries for fraudsters when and if one factor is compromised.

Industries that deal with private information like financial services and healthcare have been proactive about introducing additional security by adding multiple authentication factors.

Authentication Factor Types

Identity verification processes are based on one or more authentication factors that fall into one of the following three types:

  • Knowledge: Something you know, such as a password, answer to a security question, or any memorable information
  • Inheritance: Something you are, such as a fingerprint, facial recognition, retina pattern, or voiceprint
  • Possession: A tangible object you have, like a key fob, a phone’s SIM card, or the 3-digit code on your credit card

The simplest example of two-factor authentication is using an ATM. You use your debit card (something that you have) and a PIN (something that you know) to withdraw money from an ATM.

Additionally, there are some factor types specifically used for remote authentication:

  • Location: A user’s current location can be used as an authentication factor. This is limited by a user owning and carrying a smartphone with location sharing turned on at the time of authentication.
  • Time: A user’s time can be used to allow or prevent access based on user’s time zone and current local time.

Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication

If your company is considering implementing Multi-Factor Authentication for this first time, here are four quick tips to help you get started.

  1. Make sure factors are independent: When implementing MFA, it is very important to select factors from different categories and make them mutually exclusive. In other words, gaining access to one factor shouldn’t automatically grant access to another.
  2. Keep channels in mind: Your customers expect a seamless experience across all of the channels they use. In some cases, your customers may want to stay within a specific channel to verify their identity and complete their transaction. Because of this, it’s important that Multi-Factor Authentication spans across all of your channels.
  3. Leverage biometrics technology: Biometrics technologies have come a long way in recent past. We are no strangers to unlocking our computers with fingerprints or making payments via touch ID, and some even verify their identity using retina patterns. However, these techniques require a special hardware on both a company and users side to perform successful authentication. Voice biometrics, where a person’s unique voiceprint is used to identify and verify them, is the most practical and device-independent biometrics, making it ideal for the customer care industry. By examining the customer base closely, a brand can determine which biometrics works for them.
  4. Capture multiple factors at once: To speed up the authentication process and improve the customer experience, it is possible to capture multiple authentication factors at once. For example, a company can ask the caller to answer to a security question (something you know), and capture audio to match the voiceprint (something you have), at the same time.

When it comes to security, less is not more. Regardless of which techniques you use, you can put your customers at ease and build confidence in your brand by offering multiple authentication factors.

Want to learn more? Let’s talk.