Code Please: Microsoft’s Multi-Factor Authentication Methods

First of all, I would like to wish each and every one of you a happy holiday season! 2020 has been a challenge and we’ve managed to get through. Please keep yourselves safe this season.

Cybercriminals are loving this pandemic! They have managed to find lots of new ways to exploit you, especially while you work from home. There have been some major data breaches in the news lately. The ones that make the news are usually larger corporations. DON’T BE FOOLED! They are after YOU too! Just because you are a small business does not mean you are safe. In fact, you’re more likely to become a victim of a cyber-attack.

Harbor Computer Services has done a lot for our clients on the IT administration side of things. We have scoured over the Microsoft 365 settings in the background. We have beefed up your anti-spam and anti-phishing policies. We have implemented Multi-factor Authentication. And much more!

How Does Multi-Factor Authentication Work?

Let’s compare Multi-Factor Authentication to a real world scenario.

To get into your home, you need a key. When you’re at home and your doorbell rings, what do you do? Most likely, you’ll look outside to try and see who it is. If you can’t tell who it is, you’ll probably use a peep hole or you might yell through the door “Who is it?”. You do this for safety reasons, right? Once your door is open, you’ll verify by looking at their face or speaking to them. Then you can decide if this individual is going to enter your home.

(Of course I realize we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so your actions would most likely be a little different, but let’s just remember how things were before March.)

Let’s take that scenario and apply it to Multi-Factor Authentication. Your home in the above scenario would be your computer. The person answering the door would be your various authentication methods. In order to open the door, (get into the computer) you need a password.

So, the door is open, now you have to verify that the person waiting to get in is who they say they are. This is your multi-factor authentication. It’s the second step to verifying before someone is allowed inside.

What Multi-Factor Authentications Does Microsoft Use?

The two most common methods that we have available for our clients are to either receive a text message with a 6 digit code OR to receive a phone call from Microsoft to authenticate who you are.

Although these are a great safeguard against a criminal getting into your system, NO METHOD IS FOOLPROOF. YOU are the gatekeeper. It is your responsibility to verify when someone wants in.

When you receive a text message with a code, you enter the code onto the screen. What this does is it takes a second source of your identification to verify, in this case it is your cell phone number.

The second most common method is to receive a call from Microsoft. Generally, we don’t prefer this method, but in some cases it is necessary to use. Microsoft will call and you will hear an automated message that says it is Microsoft and they would like to verify your identity by pressing the pound key. As soon as you hit the pound key, you will see that you are let into your system.

Why Are These Methods Not Foolproof?

The text message code is more secure than the phone call method. Here’s why: if you receive that phone call from Microsoft, you have to be extremely diligent in accepting the verification. IF YOU ARE NOT CURRENTLY TRYING TO LOG IN, IMMEDIATELY HANG UP.

This could be a cyber criminal trying to get into your account.

Though Multi-Factor Authentication is one of the best tools that we have to fight criminals from getting into your account, it’s not fool proof. You have to do your part and not open the door to the wrong person.

Keep yourself and your company safe by exercising caution when logging in. It could be a VERY costly mistake!

About Harbor Computer Services

Harbor Computer Services is an IT firm servicing Southeastern Michigan. We work exclusively under contract with our clients to provide technology direction and either become the IT department or provide assistance to the internal IT they already have. We have won many awards for our work over the years, including the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year in 2010. Most recently we were recognized as one of the top MSP’s in the nation by ChannelFutures coming in at #40 nationwide. And in 2016 as the top Michigan IT firm for Manufacturing. There are a few simple things that make Harbor Computer Services the best choice for your business. •We are Professionals •We are Responsible •We care about your business

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