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Tyler Thepsiri

By: Tyler Thepsiri on March 07, 2024

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MFA Solutions: An Explanation & Example (Duo Security)


If you haven’t implemented a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution and are wondering what all the buzz is about but don’t want to dive deep into all of the technical details, this article is for you! 

MFA has been around for years, but many small and medium-sized businesses have been hesitant to make the switch.  

In this article, I’ll explain what MFA solutions do, how they work, and we’ll dive into a specific MFA example:  Duo Security.   

We know from more than 40 years of experience, that business leaders are often not technology experts; that’s why we publish easy-to-understand blog articles like this one.

It’s important for you to have a broad understanding of the technology tools that can help protect your business, but you don’t need to weed through every technical detail.  

And don’t worry, although we provide a comprehensive managed IT service solution, we won’t use this article to try to convince you to work with us.

To us, it’s more important that you get the information you need to make the best possible technology decisions for your organization. We know it’s a different approach, but it works for us and we hope it works for you, too. 

What Is MFA?  

MFA is a tool that requires users to provide multiple pieces of identification before accessing an application, website, or other resource. It provides an added layer of security and helps ensure that the people accessing your organization’s infrastructure and data are authorized. 

As one part of a multi-pronged approach to cybersecurity, MFA is a useful deterrent and may help prevent your organization from becoming a victim.  

Related article: 4 Security (& Other) Benefits Of Multi-Factor Authentication For Business IT

How Does MFA Work? 

Today’s MFA tools often require more than two forms of identification.  

For example, a user may need to provide a combination of a username, password, and biometric.

Or the tool may request a username, password, and a smart card. Or access may be denied without a username, password, and verification of a push notification sent to the user’s mobile phone. Or a username, password, and code from a token or “fob” may be required.  

Whatever format the identification takes, we often say MFA login credentials require users to possess multiple layers of information

  • something the user knows (password) 
  • something the user possesses (like an MFA token or biometric scan) 
  • something the user is or that is inherent to that person (username) 

Without presenting multiple pieces of information, the user can’t access the application or service. 

How Does MFA Help Keep Organizations Safe?  

MFA helps ensure that the people accessing your technology infrastructure are authorized users.  

It makes it more difficult for imposters to gain access without overcomplicating things for your team.  

MFA Tool Example: Duo Security 

There are a number of MFA tools available for organizations of all sizes. In this article, we’ll explore Duo Security, so that you have an idea of how these tools work.  

What Is Duo Security? 

Duo Security is a cloud-based Cisco product that adds an extra layer of verification when a user attempts to access company resources including computers, email, and web applications. It’s a simple and effective way of validating the identity of users.  

How Does Duo Security Work? 

According to Cisco, when users log in – from their home office, the corporate office, or another remote location — Duo Security will:  

    • Verify users by requiring multiple forms of identification
    • Monitor the health and compliance of every device connected to your organization's technology network
    • Set access levels based on the user’s role, device, location, and more  
    • Grant secure access beyond VPN capability by verifying users from wherever they choose to log-in
    • Provide single sign-on (SSO), secure access to apps for consistently easy login experience

What Options Does Duo Security Offer To Verify User Identity? 

Duo security offers three different ways for users to verify their identity. 

    • Push Notification 

      When users click on this option, Duo Security will send a notification to their cell phone. The user simply opens the Duo Security app on their phone and clicks on the green button to authorize login. 
    • Passcode

      This option sends a passcode to a user's phone. Again, they just need to open the Duo Security app on their phone and copy the passcode into the login screen on their computer. 
    • Call

      If a user prefers, they can select to have Duo Security call their phone with instructions about how to authenticate their identity. 

Who Needs An MFA Tool Like Duo Security?   

Any organization could benefit from adding another layer of security with an MFA tool.  

In the same way that multiple security tools make it harder for someone to gain unauthorized access to your home, MFA adds another layer of protection for your technology network. Every additional layer of security makes your organization a tougher target for criminals.  

What’s The Bottom Line?  

After reading this article you have a complete working knowledge of MFA tools. You’ve learned what MFA is, how it works and the value these tools provide. You’ve even learned about one specific MFA product: Duo Security.  

As a business leader, it’s important to have a working knowledge of the tools you need to keep your organization safe, but you likely don’t have the time (or interest) in learning the nitty gritty technical aspects of every technology tool. We get it! 

So now what? You may have an internal IT staff that can help you implement MFA and other security tools. Or, you may need help from an external provider. Either way can be effective. The most important thing is that you strengthen your cybersecurity defenses and continue to monitor and respond to emerging threats.  

If you have questions about MFA and have heard other people complain, read this article to learn the truth about 3 common MFA myths

Wondering if you have the security tools you need? Use the button below for a checklist you can use to self-assess your cyber readiness and determine areas where you can improve. 

Get Your Cybersecurity Checklist

About Tyler Thepsiri

With more than 10 years in the IT industry, Tyler is able to adapt quickly to almost any technological issue. He understands how systems should work, and specializes in security and compliance.

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