Flexible Security For Your Peace of Mind

MFA vs. 2FA – why the difference matters for your O365 implementation

(Last updated on September 18, 2018)

When it comes to protecting cloud applications such as O365, two-factor authentication (2FA) has some serious limitations. The high-trust authentication options available in a dynamic multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution not only free users from passwords, but also secure the authentication process.

2FA commonly combines the password with a phone-based authentication factor. O365’s two-step verification solution (included with Office 365 for Business, Azure Active Directory Premium plans and Enterprise Mobility + Security plans) is no different. Azure MFA, as it is better known, supports one-time SMS codes, mobile app and phone call verification. By default, authentication options beyond phone-based factors are not supported.

A stagnant two-factor approach, such as the one described above, is commonly regarded as multi-factor. However, in comparison to a dynamic MFA approach, it has some serious usability and security shortcomings.

Usability and security shortcomings of 2FA

Forcing users to utilize more than one factor during authentication will inherently have an impact on the user experience.  However, IT departments do not have to sacrifice security to ensure usability. 2FA utilizing the password as the first factor in combination with the mobile device, most commonly through SMS verification, does not guarantee authentication success nor does it increase security. With some determination, hackers can bypass wireless carriers, and intercept or redirect SMS codes. At one point, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) called for SMS deprecations, but later softened the recommendation in their Digital Authentication Guidelines.

Dynamic MFA is a better alternative for high-risk cloud applications such as O365. This approach can remove the password – the weakest form of authentication – as the first factor with alternatives beyond Microsoft’s default phone-based options. IT administrator can instead extend high-trust authenticators that will actually reduce authentication failure.

If you are a security conscious O365 administrator, you may believe that multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the answer to the credential-based threats that come with the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) territory. Whether you are right, or not, depends on your definition of MFA. If you are looking for a dynamic MFA solution for O365, click here to see how Specops Authentication can fulfill both your flexibility and security needs.

  • Was this Helpful ?
  • Yes   No
Back to Blog

Related Articles

  • Weighted identities are the future of MFA

    There’s a new sheriff in town Allow me to embellish – how else can you describe the sense of security one feels when the words Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) are uttered. With data breaches, system failures, and identity theft thickening the plot, authorities such as Microsoft and NIST have chosen MFA as the protector of digital…

    Read More
  • Step up your security game with dynamic MFA

    Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires authentication from independent categories of credentials: something you know (i.e. password), something you have (i.e. Mobile device), and something you are (i.e. Fingerprint). MFA enhances security when accessing resources on SaaS applications, and even during password resets. When it comes to authentication, more layers means more protection against attacks and breaches….

    Read More
  • New MFA requirements for PCI password compliance

    The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) regulates security practices to protect cardholder data. Password compliance plays an important role in the PCI standards by dictating password complexity to strengthen defense against unauthorized access. New requirements coming into effect this January demand multi-factor authentication (MFA) for administrators, and anyone with remote access. PCI…

    Read More

© 2018 Specops Software. All rights reserved. Privacy and Data Policy

[index]
[index]
[i]
[i]
[id, count]
[id, count]
[f.tagName.toLowerCase()]
[f.tagName.toLowerCase()]
[ id, validationType, arg1, arg2 ]
[ id, validationType, arg1, arg2 ]
[field.tagName.toLowerCase()]
[field.tagName.toLowerCase()]