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Infallible as trusted platforms may seem to end-users, cybersecurity is an ever-growing concern in today’s digital universe. While identity theft issues in particular have been of concern for many years, their frequency has soared in the past few.

According to the National Council on Identity Theft Protection, there were 5.7 million total fraud and identity theft reports in 2021, 1.4 million of which were consumer identity theft cases. Losses from identity theft cost Americans $5.8 billion in 2021. In 2021 alone, $2.8 billion of losses were from imposter scams and $392 million were from consumer online shopping. If all that was not mind-boggling enough, fraud cases are currently up a whopping 70% from 2020. The cherry on top: experts believe there is a new victim of identity theft every 22 seconds, and that the frequency is only increasing.

While these numbers are indeed alarming, it’s worth understanding that the idea of hackers as individual criminals conducting one-off attacks is entirely outdated. The reality is that hackers are often organized into corporation-like entities and employ hundreds (if not thousands) of people to employ malware or phishing techniques in large scale attacks. These hacking entities even employ servers to scan people’s credit cards and have call centers set up to persuade people to volunteer their personal information.

Moral of the story: thanks to an ever wider and more powerful range of identity theft methods, compromised credentials and passwords are absolutely still a prime entry point for scammers, identity thieves and many other types of malicious actors—and it’s getting worse. Suffice it to say, identity and access management are incredibly important.

Enter multi-factor authentication (MFA).

What is multi-factor authentication (MFA) and how does it help keep user accounts safe?

You’ve probably encountered MFA countless times by now. From your bank account to your Microsoft login to your Google account and much more, sometimes it seems that the multi-factors are indeed multiplying. Can’t find your cell? Annoying! Ultimately, many find the whole affair to be a whole lot of overkill.

So why on earth would you enable it for your own employees or clients? Simple. Because in just moments, you can significantly increase the security of your business.

Not entirely sure what it involves? MFA is the process of requiring more than one form of identification or verification prior to allowing someone to access secure information.

If MFA is in play, the user will typically enter their login credentials and then receive a text, call or email which contains a random code or one-time password (OTP). They must then enter this code to verify their identity and ensure access. Alternatives to MFA include entering a memorized PIN or submitting to a biometric reading such as facial recognition.

The basic idea is that the more forms of authentication one has in place, the less likely it is that passwords or private credentials will be compromised. Ultimately, MFA can make account theft far more challenging, which is why some industries have legal regulations making it a business requirement.

Why MFA is a good idea for business of all sizes

Owners of small to medium-sized businesses may be doubtful that your organization could really be a target. The assumption is often that larger corporations like The New York Times, Twitter, Facebook and Apple (to name just a few) are seen as more worthwhile targets for hackers.

Unfortunately, this is inaccurate. Small businesses are three times more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than larger companies. On average, an employee of a small business with fewer than 100 employees will experience 350% more social engineering attacks than an employee at a larger enterprise.

The fact that small businesses often fail to adequately protect themselves makes them extra vulnerable, extra valuable targets.

How to implement MFA

You may have toyed with the idea of implementing different MFA solutions. Ultimately, multi-factor authentication should be enabled on any and all tools which contain critical information pertaining to your business. That said, since enabling MFA can sometimes create issues for third-party software, always be sure to check with your IT team before implementation so you can stay ahead of any potential issues.

The good news: most tools now offer you an MFA option—all you have to do is decide how to best align its use with the needs of your business. Be it via phone or email verification, or an authentication app, enabling MFA is a surefire way to make your business environment a whole lot safer!

When it comes to choosing the right MFA solution, LastPass and Azure AD are both top tier options. LastPass will store your passwords in a secure vault that your staff can access at any time, warns you if your data is at risk and guarantees off-site security, which is invaluable to a remote workforce. Azure AD offers a broad range of flexible MFA methods—such as texts, calls, biometrics and OTPs to meet the unique needs of your organization—and you don’t have to change apps and services to use it.

While multi-factor authentication may seem over-the-top or inconvenient to some, in today’s immense digital world, it’s inarguably become a baseline precaution. If you’re concerned that implementing MFA might temporarily disrupt some aspects of user workflow or be seen as annoying by your staff, it’s important to recognize that ultimately, it’s a difference-maker. Multi-factor authentication is a simple yet powerful security precaution that can help you sleep better at night knowing you’ve done everything possible to keep your vital data safe from phishing attacks and inaccessible to unauthorized users.

Take your cybersecurity to the next level

Looking for more cybersecurity guidance and resources? Ready to implement multi-factor authentication but not sure where to start? Explore Sherweb’s full portfolio of solutions or check out our Partner Guide for additional ways we can offer your business increased security and support.

Written by The Sherweb Team Collaborators @ Sherweb