Think Text MFA is Secure? Think Again!

What is MFA 

As more of our lives and business activities have moved online, we’ve become increasingly reliant on usernames and passwords to secure our digital identities. Unfortunately, passwords can be easily guessed or stolen, which is why many online services now offer two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra layer of security. One of the most common forms of 2FA is text-based multi-factor authentication (MFA), but it’s not as secure as it may seem. Let’s dive into the vulnerabilities of text-based MFA and why modern authentication methods are a better choice.

Text-Based MFA: Not as Secure as You Might Think

Text-based MFA works by sending a one-time code to a user’s phone number via SMS, which they then enter into the login screen to gain access to their account. While this may seem like a secure way to authenticate users, it has several vulnerabilities.

First, text-based MFA is vulnerable to SIM swapping attacks. Attackers can use social engineering techniques to convince a victim’s mobile carrier to transfer their phone number to a SIM card controlled by the attacker. Once they have control of the victim’s phone number, they can intercept any text messages sent to that number, including MFA codes.

Second, text messages are often stored in an unencrypted form on a user’s mobile device. This means that if a user’s device is lost or stolen, an attacker who gains access to the device can easily access any MFA codes that were sent via text message.

Finally, text-based MFA codes can be susceptible to phishing attacks. Attackers can send fraudulent messages to users, claiming to be from a legitimate service and asking them to enter their MFA code. If the user falls for the phishing attack, they inadvertently provide the attacker with the code and give them access to the account.

Modern Authentication: A Better Choice

Fortunately, there are more secure authentication methods available that address the vulnerabilities of text-based MFA. Here are a few modern authentication methods that are more secure than text-based MFA:

  1. Hardware tokens: Hardware tokens generate a one-time code that the user enters into the login screen. Unlike text-based MFA, the code is generated by a physical device that the user carries with them, making it much more difficult for attackers to intercept or compromise.

  2. Biometric authentication: Biometric authentication uses unique physical characteristics, such as a fingerprint or face scan, to authenticate users. This method is much harder for attackers to replicate or compromise, and it’s also more convenient for users, as they don’t need to remember a password or carry a physical token.

  3. Mobile authentication apps: Mobile authentication apps generate a one-time code that the user enters into the login screen, similar to hardware tokens. However, instead of a physical device, the code is generated by an app installed on the user’s phone. This method is more secure than text-based MFA, as the code is generated locally on the user’s device, and it’s also more convenient than hardware tokens, as users are more likely to have their phone with them at all times.

Secure your Microsoft 365 environment

While text-based MFA is better than using a single password to authenticate users, it’s not as secure as modern authentication methods like hardware tokens, biometric authentication, and mobile authentication apps. These methods are much harder for attackers to compromise and offer a more convenient user experience. As online security threats continue to evolve, it’s important to use the most secure authentication methods available to protect our digital identities.

If you our your business would like assistance with setting up Modern MFA on your Microsoft tenant reach out to us today and our cybersecurity specialists would be happye to help!

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