Multi-Factor Authentication: Your Digital Deadbolt Against Intruders

This insight is part of a series of cybersecurity insights for Cybersecurity Awareness Month, recognized each October. Each article features a corresponding poster with CaseWorthy’s weekly cybersecurity tip that organizations can download and display for their employees. Week two focuses on multi-factor authentication. See all of our resources as they’re published in our Cybersecurity Awareness Month Toolkit here.

In the health and human services industry, where the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of individuals’ data are of paramount importance, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) offers significant value in safeguarding sensitive information and ensuring data privacy. With the increasing threats of cyber-attacks, insider threats, and regulatory requirements, implementing MFA has become essential in maintaining robust security measures.

What does MFA entail?

MFA is a security mechanism used to protect user accounts by requiring multiple forms of verification before granting access and is composed of the following three types of authenticators:

  1. Something you know – This type of MFA involves verifying the user’s identity based on something they know, such as a password, PIN, or security question. It typically requires the user to provide additional information beyond their username and password to prove their identity.
  2. Something you have – This type of MFA involves verifying the user’s identity based on something they possess, such as a physical token or a mobile device. The user may be required to provide a code generated by a token, a fingerprint or face scan on a mobile device, or use a smart card to authenticate.
  3. Something you are – This type of MFA involves verifying the user’s identity based on something inherent to them, such as a fingerprint, iris scan, or voice recognition. This type of MFA typically requires specialized hardware or software to capture and analyze the inherent characteristic for authentication.

However, true MFA must entail at least two different types (e.g., a password and a code from your authenticator application).  Having two instances of the same type (like entering two different passwords) does not constitute MFA.

Why do we need it?

1. MFA provides an additional layer of protection for patient data.

Human services organizations store vast amounts of personal and medical information in electronic health records (EHRs) and other digital systems. This data is highly valuable to cybercriminals, who can use it for various malicious purposes. By requiring multiple authentication factors, such as a password and a fingerprint or a smart card, MFA reduces the risk of unauthorized access to patient records, protecting patient privacy and preventing data breaches.

2. MFA helps prevent unauthorized access to Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and other critical systems.

Unauthorized access to EHRs can lead to tampering with patient records, altering medication orders, or stealing sensitive information. MFA ensures that only authorized personnel with the correct credentials can access these systems, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and potential tampering. This helps maintain the integrity and accuracy of patient records and ensures that only legitimate users can access and modify patient data.

3. MFA mitigates the risk of insider threats, which can pose a significant security risk in the human services industry.

Insider threats refer to unauthorized actions taken by employees, contractors, or partners who have access to sensitive information. These individuals may intentionally or unintentionally misuse their access, leading to data breaches or other security incidents. MFA can help detect and prevent insider threats by requiring additional authentication factors, making it more difficult for malicious insiders to exploit their access and reducing the risk of insider-related security incidents.

4. MFA enhances the overall security posture of human services organizations.

Cyber-attacks, such as phishing, ransomware, and malware attacks, are prevalent in the human services industry. These attacks often exploit vulnerabilities in passwords, such as weak or stolen passwords, to gain unauthorized access. MFA adds an extra layer of protection, making it much more challenging for cybercriminals to bypass authentication and gain access to healthcare systems. Even if an attacker manages to steal a password, they would still need to provide additional authentication factors, such as a fingerprint or a smart card, to gain entry, significantly reducing the risk of successful cyber-attacks.

5. MFA supports compliance with regulatory requirements.

The human services industry is subject to strict regulations, such as HIPAA in the United States, which mandate the protection of patient data. Many regulatory frameworks require the use of multi-factor authentication as part of the security measures to protect sensitive information. Implementing MFA helps human services organizations meet regulatory requirements, ensuring compliance and avoiding potential penalties for non-compliance.

6. MFA promotes user awareness and behavior.

Passwords are often the weakest link in security, as users tend to choose weak passwords or reuse them across multiple accounts. MFA encourages users to choose stronger passwords and adopt better password management practices, as they know that their passwords alone are not sufficient to gain access. This helps improve overall user awareness and behavior towards security, reducing the risk of password-related security incidents.

7. MFA offers flexibility in authentication methods.

MFA allows human services organizations to choose from a variety of authentication factors, such as passwords, smart cards, fingerprint scans, retina scans, voice recognition, or mobile devices, depending on their specific needs and requirements. This flexibility allows organizations to implement a multi-factor authentication solution that best fits their unique environment, making it more convenient for users while maintaining robust security measures.

In short, MFA is important in human services as it provides enhanced security, protects against unauthorized access, mitigates data breaches, aids in compliance with regulatory requirements, and promotes user accountability. By implementing MFA, human services organizations can strengthen their security posture and protect patient information from potential threats.

The protection of sensitive information is a top priority for health and human services organizations. MFA is an essential component of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. By following the guidelines outlined in this article and fostering a culture of security awareness, these organizations can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and maintain the trust of their clients and stakeholders.

Get more free cybersecurity tips in our Cybersecurity Toolkit here! 

CaseWorthy is a family of products helping organizations to combine their program data and business operations into a single scalable solution. CaseWorthy strives to maintain the highest level of information security to protect its systems, data, and clients. To demonstrate its commitment, it maintains HITRUST and SOC 2 certifications to certify the program through independent third party evaluation. Our commitment extends beyond compliance; it’s a proactive approach that drives us to continuously invest in cutting-edge technologies, adopt best practices, and foster a culture of security awareness among our team. By collaborating with industry experts, sharing insights, and staying vigilant against emerging threats, we contribute to the collective resilience of the business community and demonstrate our dedication to a safer digital world for all.

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