The Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication for Educational Facilities6 min read
The bipartisan School Safety Policy legislation provides funding for creating safe school environments, training, and the acquisition of equipment and technology that especially assists when violent threats exist. Other sources of funding or school grants have also been made available through the Departments of homeland security, education, and justice.
Through federal assistance, institutions can improve CCTV video with new-generation AI-powered cameras. State-of-the-art access control using biometrics or digital credentials paired with smart locks and connected directly to law enforcement and first responders are no longer out of reach for strained school budgets.
Schools use and store a great deal of sensitive information which requires security protection. These may include personal data, health information, school grades, and attendance logs. However, proper storage is not the only challenge. Access to sensitive information needs to be limited to only authorized users and unprotected access can create problems of trust and credibility as well as legal issues.
Private and public schools, universities, colleges, and all types of educational institutions are increasingly the object of cyberattacks. These facilities store large amounts of high-quality data that when not properly secured can cause victims both financial loss and damage to reputations.
Multi-Factor authentication is one method for ensuring digital security and protecting the sensitive data of staff, and faculty. and students. With MFA, even if a bad actor obtains a user’s login credentials, they will be unable to successfully access sensitive data unless they also have other access authentication factors. A secondary MFA is commonly sent to a personal email address or directly to an authorized person’s smartphone or mobile device. App notifications are also an option.
The risks associated with not implementing MFA are many and varied, and they continue to increase as hackers grow better at attacking digital systems.
What Is MFA?
Multi-factor authentication is a system designed to control who accesses programs and information. It requires two or more different authentication methods to verify the identity of who is attempting to access to be able to log in. A key aspect is the addition of more authentication factors to improve security while still guaranteeing some convenience for users.
Using only one authentication method can leave schools vulnerable to unauthorized access, ransomware attacks, viruses, and more. MFA offers an important tool for defending educational data.
What Are the Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication for Educational Facilities?
The advantages are numerous and include:
MFA increases security offering better control of who can access educational files and information.
The primary objective of MFA is to reduce the risk of violations of an account. The use of a simple password is risky with more than 80% of data breaches reported to be caused by stolen or weak passwords. They can be shared, duplicated, or passed around unbeknownst to the original user. The use of MFA by educational facilities defines who can access files and who cannot. The use of two or more factors not only limits the number of users with access but ensures that those accessing are indeed the persons listed as being authorized.
MFA increases third-party-use security.
Third parties may be accessing files and information stored. The larger the educational facility, the greater system access will be. There could be hundreds if not thousands of people accessing educational systems. MFA can determine who can access specific files and information that are considered sensitive.
MFA offers a variety of choices for the customization of authentication procedures.
There are three common types of credentials used with MFA. These include:
- Knowledge: a password or something known only to the user.
- Possession: a security token, key fob, smart card, or mobile device credential.
- An Inherited Factor: biometrics such as facial recognition, voice recognition, or a fingerprint. These are difficult to fake or mimic and are considered among the strongest types of authentications creating the least amount of inconvenience for users.
At least two of these credentials will be needed for MFA. The choice of the credentials and how much access they permit can be determined to meet the specific security needs of the institution.
MFA aids in compliance with regulatory codes.
The storage of personal sensitive data is highly regulated. A person’s privacy is of the utmost importance and is safeguarded by regulation and legislation. Access to personal information can only be afforded to authorized personnel. The implementation of technical safeguards such as MFA protects against unauthorized access and the meeting of external compliance requirements thus avoiding sanctions or fines and minimizing any audit findings.
MFA offers convenience to users.
Most people have dozens of apps or websites for which they must remember passwords. Trying to create and memorize complex passwords for each app and website is challenging, to say the least. While password managers can help, passwords do need to be reset at regular intervals. This further complicates access authentication. MFA is exceptionally convenient.
MFA eliminates the risks associated with passwords.
Passwords can be guessed, cracked, and stolen. Consider that more than 65% of passwords used in a variety of accounts are duplicates. If someone finds a school employee’s password for another account, he or she may also have found it for multiple accounts including those that should be safeguarding sensitive data. While it is a best practice to use computer-generated complex passwords, MFA is better and more secure particularly because it offers numerous customization options.
MFA is compatible with Sso or single sign-on.
MFA can be embedded and integrated into apps for a single sign-on.
MFA is scalable.
MFA can be adapted to the size of the user base which can be an appealing characteristic for educational facilities that may have variable numbers of students, staff, and faculty.
MFA enables mobility and remote work.
Staff, students, and faculty will not be using educational databases from the same location. MFA facilitates access from any mobile device at any location 24/7 while still protecting data.
MFA can be adapted for varying risk levels.
Some data or processes may call for increased security protocols. Adaptive MFA is a type of biometric access control that can be programmed to recognize suspect factors such as an IP address or geolocation and request additional authentication factors.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Using MFA?
The biggest disadvantage that MFA brings with it is that it requires a bit more time. The need to enter two or more forms of identity authentication will add time to accessing information. A bit more time, however, is worth the added layer of security.
Also, MFA systems will come at an expense. Integrating MFA can be expensive depending on specific security needs. Costs initially may appear pricey, but the safety level is much higher than other security strategies.