Common Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Risk and Vulnerabilities

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Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Risk and Vulnerabilities

Cybercriminals target users by looking for weaknesses in the authentication process; therefore, online security is crucial. Knowing the typical authentication flaws that might endanger your clients’ online identities is essential, given the rise in cyberattacks. Therefore, you should be aware of several authentication flaws if you serve consumers online and use traditional authentication procedures.

This article will look at many common authentication vulnerabilities and offer advice on preventing them. By being aware of these issues, you can better defend your company, clients, and online assets from cyberattacks.

Let’s start!

What is MFA or Multi-factor Authentication?

MFA combines two or more authentication factors from different categories to prevent unwanted access. The three most popular multi-factor authentication elements are being something you possess (the possession factor), something you know (the knowledge factor), and something you are (the inheritance factor).

When a person needs to provide multiple types of identity authentication on a system, this is known as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication (2FA).

Recommended: What Is a Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)? Difference Between 2FA & MFA

Using several authentication factors, MFA significantly increases security because an attacker must still avoid other protection levels, even in cases where one has been compromised. MFA use in your business’s daily operations has several benefits. It considerably lowers the possibility of cyberattacks, data breaches, and unwanted access.

By requiring several verification forms, MFA adds complexity to the authentication process, making it much more difficult for hackers to breach your system.

While requiring two examples of a single factor (e.g., a password and a PIN) does not constitute multi-factor authentication (MFA), it could offer some security advantages over a simple password.

Furthermore, even though the following sections review the drawbacks and vulnerabilities of various MFA configurations, they are frequently only applicable to targeted attacks. Any MFA is better than none.

Benefits of MFA

The most frequent way user accounts on apps are hacked is by using weak, reused, or stolen passwords. Users can choose weak passwords or reuse the same password across several apps despite any technological security measures for the application.

It should be expected by developers and system administrators that users’ credentials will eventually be hacked, and the system should be built to prevent this from occurring.

According to Microsoft information, multi-factor authentication (MFA) would have prevented 99.9% of account breaches. MFA is the most excellent defense against password-related attacks, like credential stuffing, password spraying, and brute force.

Increased Security

Multi-factor authentication offers an additional degree of security to MFA. A hacker attacks alternative authentication systems even if he manages to gain access to the password. It significantly lowers the possibility of identity theft, unauthorized acceptance, and factual errors.

Prevention Against Phishing

Phishing attacks entail misleading users into disclosing their login credentials via malicious emails or fraudulent websites. MFA guards against these kinds of attacks since it needs a second factor to get access, even if a user falls for a phishing attempt and gives their password.

Prevention of Stolen Identity

Many clients have their credentials exposed without awareness due to the increased frequency of data breaches and hacking occurrences. MFA is intended to stop such compromised credentials from being effectively used against users. Even if your password is obtained, it will be challenging to obtain unauthorized access because of the additional authentication procedures.

Limitations or Drawbacks of MFA

The main drawback of MFA is that it makes maintenance more difficult for administrators and end users. Configuring and using MFA may be challenging for many non-technical individuals. There are a few other typical issues that are also encountered:

  • Certain MFA types might result in high expenses and administrative overheads since they need users to have hardware.
  • If users misplace their other factors or cannot utilize them, they risk having their accounts frozen.
  • Attackers might abuse procedures to let users reset or disable MFA.

What Potential Effects Could Authentication-Based Vulnerabilities Have on You?

Whether due to weak passwords or improper authentication design and execution, authentication vulnerabilities have profound implications.

Malicious people might use these vulnerabilities to gain access to user accounts and systems to:

  • Extract confidential data.
  • Posing as a trustworthy user
  • Take command of the program.
  • Destroy the system in its entirety.

Attackers can acquire vital information such as names, credit card numbers, social security numbers (SSNs), healthcare information, and tax IDs if they can bypass the authentication procedure and get access to a user account. Additionally, they can act on behalf of users by initiating financial transactions, erasing data, or changing the ownership of resources.

Even worse, if hackers manage to access admin profiles or other high-level accounts, they can take over your system and even shut it down. If discovered, these authentication flaws can seriously harm your company’s credibility and sustainability.

Additionally, you can face legal repercussions via the GDPR, CCPA, financial services regulations, or other local laws, depending on the type of data that was compromised.

10 Common Multi-factor Authentication Vulnerabilities

If authentication vulnerabilities are poorly managed, they can harm a company’s reputation and security.

Here are 10 of the most prevalent vulnerabilities dependent on authentication that you should be aware of:

1. Inadequate Brute-Force Protection

An effort to get unauthorized access to a system or user’s account using a brute-force attack, like a dictionary attack, involves inputting several randomly generated or generated combinations of usernames and passwords until they discover one that succeeds.

Attackers can take control of login credentials and processes, threatening the security of user credentials if there is a broken brute-force protection mechanism, such as a weakness in a firewall, verification logic, or secure shell (SSH) protocol.

2. HTTP Basic Verification

Although this traditional online authentication technique is simple, specific hazards are involved.

Simple username and password authentication over HTTP is done with each request. However, the login and password information may be transferred in clear text, making it simple for attackers to obtain the credentials if the proper security protocols, such as TLS session encryption, are not utilized for all connections.

Given the lack of context in the provided credentials, cross-site request forgeries (CSRF) and other attacks can readily exploit them. Modern browsers typically cache this data forever because it is provided with every request, making it difficult to “log out” and stop a local attacker from exploiting the credential later.

3. Inadequate or Weak Login Details

Users must generate a username and password when registering for an account on a website or application supporting password-based logins.

On the other hand, if the password is known, there could be weaknesses in the authentication procedure. It may be simpler for attackers to target specific individuals when usernames are predictable.

Instead of employing a complete brute-force assault, the attackers will search for accounts with frequently used, simple passwords. They will attempt using popular logins such as “managers,” “administrators1,” and “password123.” Even websites shielded from brute-force attacks can still be compromised if weak passwords are allowed.

4. Username Enumeration

It’s not quite an authentication vulnerability when usernames are enumerated. However, reducing the cost of other attacks, such as brute-force attacks or inadequate credential checks, might make life simpler for an attacker.

An attacker’s ability to determine which usernames are legitimate is the issue with username enumeration. Then, instead of wasting time and money trying many bogus account names, they may attempt to hijack legitimate user accounts using brute-force tactics.

5. Weak Session Management

A weakness in handling session IDs allows legitimately authenticated sessions to be taken over. This is one of the most often used online weaknesses for password bypassing.

Session mismanagement flaws include:

  • A lack of session timeouts.
  • Disclosing session IDs in URLs.
  • Using session cookies without setting the Http-Only option.
  • There needs to be more adequate session invalidation.

An attacker can quickly access a system by assuming the identity of a user who has already completed authentication, so they can avoid the authentication procedure altogether if they can take control of an active session.

6. Absence of MFA

Many users need the severe vulnerability that is the absence of MFA. By forcing users to submit numerous verification forms before being able to access their accounts, MFA adds an extra degree of protection.

 You significantly improve the security of your account against unwanted access by turning on MFA.

7. Human Error

Employee carelessness was cited as the second main reason for data breaches by up to 31% of C-suite executives, according to the Shred-it 2020 research.

Compared to brute-force attacks, SQL injections, and identity bypasses, human mistakes can result in significant authentication shortcomings that are much easier to exploit. This carelessness involves the following behaviors:

  • Keeping a computer open and running in an open area
  • Electronics being taken from
  • Giving outsiders access to private information
  • Writing erroneous code

8. Unreliable Two-Factor Authentication

Although two-factor authentication (2FA) works effectively for secure authentication, improper implementation can lead to serious security issues.

If the two verification data are delivered over SMS, attackers can use SIM swap attacks to decipher their four- or six-digit codes. Specific forms of two-factor authentication are also not two-factor. 

Two-factor authentication vulnerabilities can also happen if an account has not been locked out after a specified amount of failed login attempts.

9. SQL Injection

SQL injection is an attack vector that modifies and accesses a database using malicious SQL code input.

By taking pertinent information (such as weakly secured password hashes) from an unsecured database, SQL injections can make attacks on authentication systems possible. If the injected SQL code is run by an internal (and previously authorized) tool that does not adequately evaluate external input, they can also get around authentication procedures.

10. Keeping Logged In

It’s straightforward to remain logged in after ending a session when there’s a “Remember me” or “Keep me logged in” checkbox underneath a login form. It creates a cookie that enables you to log out without having to.

If an attacker can anticipate a cookie or figure out its creation process, that might result in a cookie-based authentication vulnerability. By enabling a malicious service to utilize a legal cookie, they can use harmful techniques like cross-site scripting (XSS) to compromise user accounts and brute-force assaults to predict cookies.

Attackers may get passwords or other sensitive (and legally protected) data, including user addresses or account information, from a stored cookie if it is not designed correctly or secured.

How Can Authentication Vulnerabilities Be Prevented?

A thorough evaluation of the capabilities vulnerabilities is essential to enhance MFA deployment. Assess the authentication components (tokens, biometrics, and passwords) first. To reduce the possibility of an unmarried breach impacting the system, ensure the components are distinct and share an objective.

Furthermore, an account should employ a proactive authentication method that examines contextual information such as user behavior, location, or tool to increase the flexibility and accuracy of access decisions.

Other than this, a few other factors have been determined to be the most effective way of fortifying multi-factor authentication (MFA). The following is a list of the factors:

Develop a Trustworthy Method for Preventing Brute-force Attacks

Implementing application firewalls, rate limits, IP-based monitoring, account lockouts, and CAPTCHAs can all help stop brute-force attacks.

Use Biometrics Effectively

The changing environment of biometric data utilization requires thoughtful consideration. MFAs and biometrics together provide a dynamic defense against cyberattacks.

We should utilize biometric data wisely and strengthen MFA implementation; according to the advice, “Take advantage of the biometrics potential; however, keep a watchful eye on its proper integration.” It guarantees that in the future, our digital identity will be strong enough to maintain its integrity while entirely using the conveniences provided by MFAely.

Use Statements with Parameters:

Using parameterized queries and input validation may avoid SQL Injection attacks. It is safer to refrain from inserting user input straight into SQL queries.

Apply Multi-factor Authentication Appropriately:

Password-based systems are less secure than multi-factor authentication. To successfully use this type of authentication, you will require robust and secure verification code creation.

Implement a Policy for Protected Passwords:

Use a password checker that gives users a real-time password strength assessment to enforce an encrypted password policy. To lessen the danger and strain of managing passwords, you may also deploy password-less authentication using standards like FIDO2.

Consider turning off Username Enumeration:

You should disable username enumeration because it forces an attacker to brute-force both the set of likely usernames and the set of passwords rather than focusing only on the ones they are confident are valid. This is accomplished by generating the same error for a login failure regardless of whether the username is valid or invalid.

Wrap Up!

Strengthening digital security and information and addressing multi-factor authentication (MFA) vulnerabilities are crucial. MFA provides a strong defense against unwanted access, but that security may be threatened if its flaws are ignored. Businesses and individuals can significantly improve their safety posture by identifying capability-vulnerable elements and taking preventative action.

Moreover, it’s fundamental to understand how to prevent authentication weaknesses in cybersecurity, whether they pertain to infrastructure access, website or application security, or both. 

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a passionate Cyber-Security Enthusiast who keenly monitors the latest developments in the Web/Cyber Security industry. She puts her knowledge into practice and helps web users by arming them with the necessary security measures to stay safe in the digital world.