User Management Explained: Top 7 Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Best Practices

Multi-Factor Authentication, commonly known as MFA, is an effective and flexible user management technique that helps safeguard SaaS applications and services. But what’s the best way to go about things? What’s the best strategy? Here are the top 7 MFA best practices you should be implementing today.

What is MFA?

Not to be confused with 2-Factor Authentication (2FA), Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a multi-layered user management mechanism that’s used to ensure secure logins into SaaS applications and services. It can also be used to safeguard sensitive actions like subscription renewals, application of upgrades, and adding new users to the mix. 2FA uses only two steps, while MFA can involve three or more. 

The continuous rise in cybercrime proves that no verification factor is perfect. Passwords that can be exploited with brute-force or social engineering attacks. MFA solves password hygiene issues and vulnerabilities by adding more factors into the mix. For example, a biometric factor like your fingerprints can be added into the flow to add another layer of security that is harder to bypass. 

MFA makes use of verification factors to provide this kind of security:

  • Things the end-user has – This is the email account and application itself
  • Things that the end user knows – These usually include passwords or PINs
  • Things the end user is – Usually biometric assets (fingerprints, voice, etc)
  • The end user location – Factors like geolocations and IP addresses

But just like anything else in the SaaS space, no methodology or technique is perfect. While MFA is definitely an internal security booster and data privacy enforcer, it also negatively impacts the user experience (added friction) and causes frustration with developers who have to create (and maintain) these flows. As you start scaling up, inconsistencies can start creeping in. 

Read More: Cybersecurity in 2023: User Management Can Make the Difference 

Top 7 MFA Best Practices

The cons mentioned in the previous section should not stop you from implementing MFA. The following best practices will help you optimize your MFA flows and make sure that you are covering all bases to ensure sustainable growth.

Here are the top MFA best practices for optimal results:

1. Watch the User Experience

Implementing four different verification methods in your MFA flow can do wonders for your security posture, but it will definitely obliterate the user experience. Internal employees and end users like minimal in-app friction and zero dependence on support teams. Introduce multiple verification methods into your MFA flow and allow more flexibility. Every use case is different and has varying requirements.

Try to integrate OTPs, biometric methods, and magic links into your MFA flow.

2. Use Single Sign-On (SSO) with Your MFA

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a proven and tested authentication method that significantly improves the user experience. With SSO, users can log into multiple SaaS applications and services with just one set of credentials. When combined with MFA, you still get that second or third layer of security, but you also speed up the first step. Customer satisfaction should not be neglected. Embrace SSO.

We encourage you to check out our detailed SSO guide for more information. 

3. Implement Adaptive MFA

Also known as step-up authentication, adaptive MFA leverages contextual user information to possibly eliminate the need for a second (or third) verification factor. This kind of MFA helps create faster logins without forcing users to complete the whole flow repeatedly. Adaptive MFA uses context like IP addresses, device information, or geolocation data to speed up user management activity.

Stay tuned for a detailed Frontegg article about Adaptive MFA and its benefits.

4. Implement MFA Across the Organization

The use of multi-factor authentication should not be limited to specific departments, workers, or machines. This should ideally be a cross-department operation, with a solution that can give you granular control over specific users or roles. For example, you may want to ask external service providers to go through three verification factors, while applying adaptive MFA internally.

Granular user management with RBAC is a great way to go about things.

5. Consider Going Passwordless

Password fatigue can be lethal. Weak passwords are leading to hundreds of hacking incidents and data breaches on a monthly basis. Passwords also put a lot of stress on IT and support teams, not to mention the costly maintenance of password databases. More and more SaaS companies are now going passwordless with magic links, social logins, and biometric techniques like fingerprint reading. 

Read more about social logins in our detailed guide. 

6. Re-Evaluate MFA Flows Annually

Perform detailed MFA audits on an annual basis to be on top of things. Are your MFA flows configured properly? Are you using high attack resistance factors for sensitive accounts and users? Besides the implementation specifics, your users and use cases can change drastically in a matter of months. All of this required a comprehensive breakdown and optimization of your MFA flows.

Use product analytics to detect friction points and fine-tune the user journey.

7. Application Security Awareness and Training

 Even MFA isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to protecting sensitive data and achieving sustainable compliance. Popular hacking methods like phishing and social engineering target one specific element – the human weak link. The more your workers and users are aware about the risks of data breaches, the better your security standards will be. Educate them before AND after your MFA rollout.

It can also be a good idea to run periodic security audits or penetration (pen) tests.

Implementing MFA With Frontegg

Frontegg is a self-served and end-to-end user management platform that provides multi-factor authentication (MFA) out-of-the-carton. Getting started just takes a few lines of code and configuring your MFA flow is a breeze. 

You can fully customize it for your specific use cases. Besides the verification factors (authenticators, SMS, security keys, security keys, etc.) that can be personalized as per your needs, you can also create your own in-house MFA policy. Frontegg also takes care of all frontend needs and saves development time with a dynamic login box that can be customized and embedded with just a few clicks. 

Achieving product maturity for enterprise has never been easier.

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