Why is multi-factor authentication crucial for Microsoft 365 security?

For millions of businesses – Microsoft 365 has become the sole provider for professional services like email and calendar, file storage and sharing, teamwork and collaboration and much more. Protecting that data has become increasingly important yet challenging for businesses and their end users. A strong password is simply not enough these days to stop people from gaining unwanted access to your account and/or company data.

What is multi-factor authentication?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires users to provide two or more different types of authentication factors before they can access their accounts. These factors typically fall into three categories:

Microsoft has many user-friendly ways in which the MFA can be enabled, including text messages, authenticator apps, and biometric verification, making it convenient and accessible for users to set up and use MFA.

Why is it necessary to introduce MFA into your security policy?

With the growing list of companies migrating all their IT systems to the cloud, the data that a single username and password can gain access to has increased from the days of when systems were held on site within the four walls of the company office.

A single user on Microsoft 365 can have access to multiple mailboxes via Exchange Online, which can contain important/sensitive communication from clients or employees. Company files, stored in SharePoint or Teams relating to commercially confidential products or services. But now, the use of application integration and single sign on mean that a Microsoft 365 account can sign into multiple services, so data may well extend much further than just the Microsoft 365 platform.

What are the benefits of multi-factor authentication in Microsoft 365?

Stronger Security: MFA strengthens security by adding an extra layer on top of your typical method of just a password for account access. Even if a password becomes compromised, an additional factor is still required to gain access which allows the account to remain secure. By utilising MFA in Microsoft 365 security, companies can enhance their defences against cyber threats and protect data effectively.

Mitigates Password-Based Attacks: Password-based attacks, such as brute force attacks or phishing, are less effective when MFA is enabled. Even if an attacker manages to obtain a user’s password, they won’t be able to access the account without the additional authentication factor.

Protection Against Credential Stuffing: With every platform, service provider and shop requiring an online account nowadays many users reuse passwords across multiple platforms. If one of those systems is breached, attackers may try those same credentials on Microsoft 365 accounts. MFA prevents this because the attackers would still need the second factor.

Compliance Requirements: MFA is often a requirement for compliance with industry standards and regulations, such as GDPR or Cyber Essentials, especially when handling sensitive data or personal identifiable data.

How to set up multi-factor authentication in Microsoft 365?

MFA is enabled by default via the Security Defaults feature in tenants created after October 2019. Security Defaults was also rolled out to older tenants but wasn’t enabled automatically, to learn more, see our blog Microsoft Security Defaults – recent changes and how to enable them.

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Scott Coates
I am a skilled and experienced technical support engineer with an extensive background within the MSP sector with a passion for providing excellent service.
Published On: August 9th, 2023 Categories: Modern IT

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