The Basics of Multi-Factor Authentication and Single Sign-On

The Basics of Multi-Factor Authentication and Single Sign-On

According to the 2019 MidYear QuickView Data Breach Report, the first six months of 2019 saw 3,800 publicly disclosed breaches exposing an incredible 4.1 billion compromised records. Though a majority of these breaches had a moderate or low severity score, no organization is too small to be on the radar of cyber-attackers. Any breach should be taken seriously, whatever the severity score! 

So how do we prevent our company data from being hacked into? There are multiple ways to secure your data. For starters, we need to have stronger passwords. For an 8-character password, just the addition of numbers and having a mix of upper and lowercase letters increases the amount of time to crack the password from about four hours to five months! The more complex your password, the better. 


Once you’ve implemented complex passwords at your organization, take it one step further by adding a layer of security to your login credentials by using multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO). Read on to learn more about what these mean. 

Multi-Factor Authentication:  

MFA is a technology that uses multiple different factors to verify a user’s identity and authenticate them to access any system, data or application. If we were at a bank, these factors can be thought of as a series of gates to enter the bank’s secure vault. We don’t just want one gate! We want multiple gates to ensure we’re letting the right people in. Typically, MFA systems use three types of authentication factors: 

  • Things you know – a password or PIN 
  • Things you have – a badge or smartphone 
  • Things you are – biometrics, like fingerprints or voice recognition  

The combination of using more than one factor to authenticate a login can significantly reduce the risk of a security breach by creating multiple gates a cyberattacker has to get through to access your data. If your data is gated by just one factor, your password, then it’s only a matter of time before your password is cracked!  

Single Sign-On: 

You have a different password for all the apps you use, right? I certainly hope so! And with all your complex passwords, we need a way to manage them that doesn’t include any sticky notes under your keyboard. SSO is a technology that permits a user to use one set of login credentials (username and password) to access multiple applications. SSO can be used by enterprises, small organizations, and even individuals. There are several advantages of using SSO, the biggest being that a user always has to remember only one password. It also saves a significant amount of time by not requiring a user to log into many different applications separately. 

MFA and SSO can be used individually but are most effective when used together. For example, one can add extra security to the initial single sign-on, like adding a biometric authentication, or access via a code sent to the user’s phone or email address. That way you get added security for the login credentials for your SSO as well as the convenience of having to log in only once.  

Want to improve the security of your company with MFA and SSO? Get in touch with an IT expert at ECHO today!