Why are companies increasingly requesting MFA for SaaS usage?

by Malo Jamain, Business Developer

In the fast-evolving digital landscape, where software applications and networks play a pivotal role, the need for robust security measures has become more critical than ever. The role of SaaS (Software as a Service) provider extends beyond offering innovative solutions—it includes safeguarding sensitive user data and maintaining the trust of clients. 

One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through the implementation of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). 

Recently, we published an article on What is multi-factor authentication or MFA?” In this article, we go even deeper into the world of MFA, shedding light on its significance, working principles, and why the demand for two-factor authentication (2FA) in the SaaS industry is growing fast.

Multi-Factor Authentication: Unveiling the Concept

At its core, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security protocol that requires users to provide multiple forms of identity verification credentials before gaining access to a software application or network. In essence, it adds an extra layer of protection beyond traditional username-password combinations. 

MFA ensures that even if a malicious actor manages to acquire a user's password, they still can't breach the system without the additional factors of authentication.

Understanding Authentication Factors

Before granting a user access to a software application or a network, identity and access management systems assess the user for characteristics that are specific to them in order to make sure they are who they say they are. These characteristics are also known as "authentication factors."

When these factors are used in MFA, every additional factor increases the certainty that the person attempting to access the account is who or what they declared to be.

The three most widely used authentication factors are:

  • Knowledge: Something only the user knows such as their password or pin number.

  • Possession: Something only the user has such as a smartphone or a hardware token.

  • Inherence: Something that is only of that user such as their fingerprint or their voice.

The Mechanics of Multi-Factor Authentication

Single-factor authentication is the use of just one of the above factors to identify a person. Username-password combination is the most common example of single-factor authentication. MFA, on the other hand, refers to any usage of two or more authentication factors. If only two authentication factors are used, MFA can also be referred to as two-factor authentication (2FA) or two-step verification. Three-factor authentication is another form of MFA. 

With single-factor authentication, an attacker only needs to successfully attack the user in one way in order to impersonate them. If a user's password is stolen, that user's account is undoubtedly at risk. By contrast, if a SaaS platform supports MFA and it is utilized by the user, an attacker would need more than a password to gain access to the account—for example, they will likely need to steal a physical item from the user as well, which is much more difficult.

This issue also applies to other forms of single-factor authentication. Imagine if banks only required the use of a debit card for withdrawing money—the _possession _factor—instead of requiring a card plus a PIN. In order to steal money from someone’s account, all a thief would need to do is steal their debit card.

Also, worthy of note is the fact that according to a survey carried out in 2017 by Digital Guardian involving 1,000 participants, about 61% of them admitted to reusing passwords across multiple platforms. So, clearly the username-password combination is too weak a line of defense today.

Creating a different password on all the applications is not sustainable in the long-run, which is why a password manager can be a good solution to prevent security issues.

MFA operates on the principle that combining two or more authentication factors significantly enhances security. To access a system, users must provide credentials from different categories. 

It is also important to note that it is the use of different factors that makes MFA secure, not multiple uses of the same factor.

For instance, entering a password (knowledge factor-something you know) alongside a one-time code from a mobile app (inherence factor-something you have) creates a robust authentication process. This dynamic approach significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if one factor is compromised.

The Case for MFA in SaaS: Bolstering Security and Trust

The question isn't “Why are companies increasingly demanding Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for SaaS?”; rather, it's why you, as a SaaS provider, should implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) in the first place and be proactive about it. And the answer is clear: MFA offers unparalleled protection against cyber threats and reinforces user trust.

Addressing Security Concerns

As cyberattacks continue to rise in complexity and frequency, SaaS providers must prioritize security. Data breaches can lead to devastating consequences, including financial losses and reputational damage. Research shows that 49% of customers refused to sign up with an online service that had incurred a cyberattack. MFA acts as a shield against these threats, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. 

Meeting Regulatory Compliance

In an era of stringent data protection regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, businesses are compelled to uphold certain security standards. By implementing MFA, SaaS providers can demonstrate their commitment to safeguard user data and stay compliant with industry regulations.

Elevating User Experience

Contrary to misconceptions, security measures need not hinder user experience. In fact, MFA can be seamlessly integrated into the authentication process, offering users a sense of control and assurance over their data's safety.

Types of Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA offers a variety of methods to choose from, allowing SaaS providers to tailor their security measures to their users' preferences and needs. Some common MFA techniques include:

SMS Authentication: Users receive a one-time code via text message, which they enter alongside their password. The major advantage of this being that it can be accessed offline. 

Authentication Apps: Mobile apps generate time-sensitive codes that users input during login. The most commonly used apps in this category include Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator, Free OTP, to name a few. 

Biometric Authentication: Utilizing fingerprint scans, facial recognition, or voiceprints to verify identity.

Hardware Tokens: Physical devices that generate unique codes for authentication.

Two is Better Than One

The adage holds true in the world of cybersecurity. Two-factor authentication is often seen as the first line of defense. By the end of 2021, Google auto-enrolled 150 million users into utilizing two-factor authentication to access their accounts. According to a report from 9to5Google, this action led to a 50% decrease in compromised accounts. And this huge achievement speaks volumes about the positive impact 2FA can have on the safety of the authentication process of your SaaS company which in turn informs the trust your customers have in your service. 

In fact, Google’s account authentication and best practices report shows that multifactor authentication almost eliminates the possibility of your account being hacked. Even if a hacker were to obtain your username and password, they’d need access to your device with the authenticator app installed, making it near impossible to complete the login process. 

Employing multiple authentication factors exponentially increases protection. Customers, especially businesses and companies like to know that their data is secure. Even though adding steps to the authentication process seems annoying, customers trust businesses that take precautions to protect their data. 

However, MFA is not infallible as we have seen last year with the attack of a hacker on one of Uber’s employees that suffered “MFA fatigue.” 

A Future Where Security and Innovation Thrive 

While your primary focus lies in delivering innovative solutions, the responsibility of fortifying security and building trust cannot be underestimated. This is where Cryptr’s plug-and-play authentication solutions seamlessly integrate, allowing you to channel your energy towards other aspects of your business. 

At Cryptr, our comprehensive authentication solution takes the complexity out of implementing 2FA, freeing you from the intricacies of the process. With options including the highly demanded Google Authenticator, SMS 2FA, and free OTP, we provide a versatile toolkit to suit your specific needs. 

By entrusting us with the 2FA implementation, you can confidently redirect your resources towards refining your products and enhancing user experiences. As you build a top-tier SaaS platform, for any industry ranging from finance, to healthcare, defense, government, 2FA is the least required line of defense. 

To chat with our teams to set up 2FA for your SaaS application, you can book the slot of your choice by clicking here: Meet Cryptr 

And don’t forget to follow us on our social networks: LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram.

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