Using Multifactor Authentication To Keep District Data Safe
By Casey Thompson, digital media manager, Skyward, Inc.
Let’s be honest: Two-factor authentication (2FA) can feel like a pain. Now, security experts are pushing for districts to adopt multi-factor authentication (MFA)–multi-factor, as in more than two factors?
You may already hear the chorus of complaints. Do we really need this?
But here’s the thing: With malware attacks rising, authentication systems using two or more factors are the best way for districts to keep accounts from being hacked, and there are ways to make the process less painful.
While MFA and 2FA will always be seen as a pain by significant segments of your constituency, the good news is the process can be fairly painless (especially since often, MFA only needs to happen every once in awhile to ensure the user is who they claim to be). Beyond that, the goal is to have them see and understand it as a very important pain.
And thankfully, there are ways to do that.
What is MFA (and by extension, 2FA)?
MFA is a process that uses multiple sources to verify someone’s identity, usually online, usually so that person can access an organization’s platforms, tools, or email or data servers.
2FA is an incredibly common subset of MFA and has become the norm for many technologies.
MFA is a step up in security from 2FA, which requires you to establish your identity in two ways before allowing you access.
However, both are tested ways of reducing the risk of security breaches within your district.
How do they work?
According to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), all MFA processes require you to supply a combination of these identifiers when logging into your accounts:
- Something you know
- Something you have/own
- Something you are
Something you know
Usually, “something you know” is simply a user ID and password, though it can be a PIN or an answer to a question only you are likely to know.