(MFA) Multi-factor Authentication

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) is sometimes known as two-step verification. You'll see this when you sign in to secured online accounts. This process is called "authentication" and it is how you prove to the online service that you are who you say you are.



MFA / Two-step Verification

Traditionally proving who you are has been done with a username and a password. However, that is no longer the best way to do it. Usernames are often easy to guess (often they're just your email address). While complicated passwords can be hard to remember, so too many people tend to pick simple ones or use the same password at many different sites. Once someone of nefarious intent has these details they can open many more 'doors' and take control of what's inside.

This is the reason why almost all online services — banks, social media, shopping, and yes, Microsoft 365 too — have added a way for your accounts to be more secure. You may hear it called "Two-Step Verification" or "Multi-factor Authentication" but the good ones all operate off the same principle. When you sign into the account for the first time on a new device or application (like a web browser) you need more than just the username and password. You need a second thing — a second "factor" - to prove who you are.

A factor in authentication is a way of confirming your identity when you try to sign in. For example, a password is one kind of factor, it's a thing only you (should) know.

The three most common kinds of factors are:

  • Something you know - Like a password, or a memorized PIN.
  • Something you have - Like a smartphone, or a secure USB key.
  • Something you are - Like a fingerprint, or facial recognition.


How does MFA work?

As an example, if you needed to sign in to your work or school account you would enter your username and password. And if that's all you need then anybody who knows your username and password can sign in as you from anywhere in the world.

But if you have multi-factor authentication enabled, you get more protection. The first time you sign in on a device or app you enter your username and password as usual, then you get prompted to enter your second factor to verify your identity.

Get the free Microsoft Authenticator app

To try it for yourself or learn more get it here. Microsoft Authenticator can be used not only for your Microsoft, work, or school accounts, you can also use it to secure your Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, and many other kinds of accounts. It's free on iOS or Android. 

If you think your business would benefit from this extra level of security, contact us here.