MFA Security Keys
Multi-factor authentication (or MFA) is an electronic authentication method that requires a user to successfully provide two or more factors of verification to grant access to an account, application or website. When signing into an account, after providing initial details such as your username and password, multi-factor authentication will ask you to provide additional verification, like a numerical passcode, additional security questions or a hardware security key to minimise, prevent and stop potential cyber-attacks. Multi-factor authentication gives your personal and business accounts extra layers of protection against cyber criminals who may steal your information in order to gain access to your accounts and sensitive information, so it is a vital part of any cyber security plan. There are a variety of ways to implement MFA, so today we are going to look into one of these methods – the security key.
What is a Security Key
A security key is a piece of hardware that can be used as a form of authentication. This MFA method is a physical device that requires a simple pin or code in order to access your accounts safely. A security key, usually in the form of a USB dongle or NFC key to be used in conjunction with an NFC reader, requires you to have the physical device and know the unique pin to sign in, so is seen as a much more secure method of verification than the simple username and password.
How does a security key work
Unlike other multi-factor authentication methods, like a numerical passcode where the user has to request a code and input it within a certain time, the only step needed for a security key is to insert it into the device being used (or tap if the key is NFC based). When logging into an account the security key will generate a unique security code for you for that specific session, meaning the only thing the user needs to do is enter their username and password as they usually would.
Benefits of a security key
There are a number of advantages to using a security key over other methods of password based authentication. The first obvious advantage is ease of use, with simple setup and no additional software required to operate it, just simply plug it in and it does the work for you. Another pro, is that security keys are easily carried in a wallet or on a keychain due to its compact design. The main benefit of this authentication method though is the high level of security it provides. As security keys generate a new unique code every time they are used, it is incredibly difficult for attackers to crack as attempting to replicate to predict the code would be nearly impossible.
Disadvantages of a Security Key
The main disadvantage of a security key comes with the fact that it is a physical piece of hardware, there is always the risk of loss, theft or damage. If you lose or misplace your security key, it can be very frustrating to find yourself locked out of all of your accounts, so it’s recommended to have a backup key or set up additional methods of authentication in case this situation occurs. Another con to using a security key, is that you may encounter some compatibility errors for your devices. It is always best to do some research or ask a tech expert to ensure the security key you purchase will work with the device you will be using it on.
In conclusion, from the points raised, security keys for multi-factor authentication are a great and simple way to increase cyber security and attain higher levels of protection for your data. Of course, as with anything, security keys are not perfect and do have their drawbacks, so it is always a good idea to have a cyber security plan in place with multiple layers for protection and backups for when they are necessary, but the benefits of using one may be worth the risks for some. A security key might be a great solution for you or your business, so if you are interested in purchasing a security key, ensure you research the best options to suit your needs or seek technical advice so you can ensure you have the right solution for you.