Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is not a new or complex approach to digital security, but a recent report has highlighted its growing importance in protecting digital assets.
The Market and Markets report expects the global MFA market size to grow from $15.2 billion in 2023 to $34.8 billion in 2028. This represents an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate of 18%. Here we will look at the significance of MFA and the major factors fueling its growth.
Even if you believe you are not familiar with MFA you have probably used it – frequently. Put simply, MFA is an additional layer of security that enhances the “traditional” username and password system by requiring the addition of extra security factors before access is granted.
We live in a new era of privacy that requires a host of tools and techniques for protection. While the process of MFA is usually met with groans of dismay by users, it is an essential tool with an ever-increasing relevance in today’s interconnected world.
Common forms of MFA include:
· SMS & email-based verification: A method where users receive unique codes via text message or email.
· App-based verification: Utilising apps like Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator, this method generates time-based codes for users to input during the login process.
· Hardware tokens: Physical devices, often in the form of key fobs or USB devices, that generate security codes.
· Push-based verification: Users receive a prompt on a trusted device (often a smartphone) asking them to approve or deny a login attempt.
· Biometric verification: Leveraging unique physical or behavioural attributes, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or voice patterns, to authenticate users.
Two main factors lie behind the ongoing and increasing use of MFA. Firstly, it is relatively simple to implement. But perhaps more importantly, it is incredibly effective despite its inherent simplicity.
While these factors demonstrate why MFA plays an important role in digital security, much of its surge in market value is driven by the changes in how we work and how we store and access digital assets.
MFA isn’t new, the concept can trace its roots back as far as the 1980s. However, its modern form came of age in 1996 when AT&T proposed a concept of a code system to authorise transactions.
This begs the question – If MFA has been around for decades, why is it only now experiencing such meteoric growth?
There is no one answer to this question, instead, there is a “perfect storm” of circumstances to consider:
· Changing work trends: The rise of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), CYOD (Choose Your Own Device), and WFH (Work From Home) trends have necessitated stronger security measures.
· Increasing cyber threats: The digital age has seen an escalation in cyber threats and breaches. MFA acts as a formidable barrier, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorised access and potential breaches.
· Legislative mandates: Increasing mandates from legislative bodies and regulatory authorities are driving the adoption of MFA. As data protection standards become more stringent, businesses are required to implement enhanced security measures like MFA to ensure compliance.
· Global context: The global rise in internet usage, stringent compliance regulations, and the growing threat of identity and access breaches have all contributed to the increasing demand for enhanced security measures like MFA.
Ultimately, the aim of MFA is to place the human factor firmly at the centre of digital security. As we move into the age of AI, there is a crumb of comfort from this, despite the groans of dismay every time we meet an MFA barrier.
The dramatic rise of MFA is indicative of the exponentially increasing importance of digital security. In many instances, data is now an organisation’s most valuable asset, and in some cases their only “marketable” asset.
MFA doesn’t stand alone in the fight against cybercrime, rather it is an essential part of an integrated system that takes a holistic approach to digital security. Among other security components expected to see unprecedented growth in the next few years are:
· Physical security: While often overlooked physical security measures like advanced access control security systems and AI-enhanced surveillance are critical components. It is worth noting that a study by Information Week found that 35% of data breaches were physical. This underscores the importance of physical security.
· AI integration: AI is being increasingly used in both physical and digital cyber defence systems. On the digital side, it is being used to provide advanced analytics that look for patterns that are indicative of potential threats. This offers real-time analytics and reduces dependence on blacklists and updates.
Despite these advancements, the in-built simplicity of MFA is likely to see it remain on the front line of cyber defences for the foreseeable future.
MFA could be renamed as – the human factor. Essentially, that is all it enables. Despite our increasing reliance on digital mechanisms that are beyond most people’s understanding, the human factor is still critical.
It is this fact that is helping to boost the MFA market. In an age where humans and AI are competing in different industries, this has to be a good thing.