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Multifactor Authentication’s Impact On Cybersecurity

November 16, 2021  |  by William Higgins, Director Solutions Engineering

School districts have so much to worry about that they often don’t fully understand how at-risk they may be for a cyberattack. While many schools are worrying about things like curriculum, budgets, and safety, they worry less about a cyberattack because they feel they’re hiding among the pack.

Unfortunately, that approach isn’t working. Schools and other education institutions are learning that using multifactor authentication (MFA) is a crucial step to avoiding cyberattacks.

With more than 130,000 schools in the United States, it’s easy to think that your school district can safely hide among the pack. If nothing’s gone “wrong” so far, why fix what’s not broken? This complacency can be especially true if you’re in a small school district in a small town in a small state. Who’s paying attention to your little corner of the world? As it turns out, it’s more people than you think—and not the people you want to attract. 

Criminals will never pass up what they see as low-hanging fruit. The mindset that cybercriminals likely have “bigger fish to fry” could be why recent trends point to a rise in cyberattacks against targeting schools of all sizes. 

Criminals are taking advantage of school districts’ vulnerabilities, believing that they are easy targets. They know that schools—especially recently—have a wide variety of priorities, and “fixing” a cybersecurity “problem” that isn’t actively a problem may not make the top of the list. 

 

A trusted technology partner can help with cybersecurity insurance requirements.

 

Given tightening budgets and long spending priority lists, what can your district do to keep your students, staff, and data safe? And while you know you need cybersecurity insurance, how do you make sure you’re meeting the new requirements

One key next step to locking down your district’s cybersecurity and meeting the new insurance requirements is leveraging multifactor authentication (MFA), which can be implemented with a trusted value-added reseller, technology partner, or managed service provider.

 

Set the foundation for MFA.

 

With 81 percent of hacking-related data breaches last year being the result of weak, default, or stolen passwords, by now we should all be aware that just having one method of authentication is no longer enough. That’s what makes MFA so crucial.

But, before we start building out the benefits of MFA, we need to lay the foundation with an understanding of basic authentication. 

What is user authentication?

User authentication sounds simple: It’s a process used to prove that a person is who they claim to be. The two steps in the authentication process are identification and verification. 

  • Identification: During the initial identification step, a user presents their identifier to the verification system or application. Most often, an identifier is a standard-issue username (for example, “jdoe” or “will.smith”).
  • Verification: During this second step, the user must provide proof that they are who they say they are. This involves information to verify the connection between the information and the identifier—the most familiar method used for verification is the standard password.

 

What are the types of MFA?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines MFA as “a characteristic of an authentication system or an authenticator that requires more than one authentication factor for successful authentication.” In practice, MFA can be performed using a combination of authenticators that provide different factors.

The three authentication factors are:   

  • Something you know (e.g., a password)
  • Something you have (e.g., a token like a security badge)
  • Something you are (e.g., a fingerprint or retinal scan)

Discover the benefits of MFA for school districts—and what to look for.

The two biggest benefits for school districts using MFA are security and compliance. 

  • Security: Each authentication method has strengths and weaknesses, but systems that use two or more different factors are typically stronger than those that use only one factor. 
  • Compliance: In addition to local, state, and federal compliance standards, many cybersecurity insurance providers now also require a move to MFA to qualify for their coverage.

However, MFA won’t make a difference if it’s too difficult to use.

MFA usability is crucial.

The right MFA solution should strike a balance between added security and user convenience, adding additional layers of protection from brute force attacks or social engineering while also helping users to stay productive without memorizing complex passwords.

Partner with the right MFA managed service provider.

If your school district doesn’t already have the necessary security and cybersecurity protections in place, then now is the time to act before you become the next victim of a cyberattack.

The good news is, you don’t have to tackle this project alone. The experienced team at VectorUSA understands your operating environment and has the technical expertise you need to find and implement the right solution. Request a consultation and see how our team can help keep your school district safe from cyberthreats.

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