Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
MFA is quite simple, and organizations are focusing more than ever on creating a smooth user experience. In fact, you probably already use it in some form. For example, you’ve used MFA if you’ve:
- swiped your bank card at the ATM and then entered your PIN (personal ID number).
- logged into a website that sent a numeric code to your phone, which you then entered to gain access to your account.
MFA, sometimes referred to as two-factor authentication or 2FA, is a security enhancement that allows you to present two pieces of evidence – your credentials – when logging in to an account. Your credentials fall into any of these three categories: something you know (like a password or PIN), something you have (like a smart card), or something you are (like your fingerprint). Your credentials must come from two different categories to enhance security – so entering two different passwords would not be considered multi-factor.
So look at a simple scenario: logging in to your bank account. If you’ve turned on MFA or your bank turned it on for you, things will go a little differently. First and most typically, you’ll type in your username and password. Then, as a second factor, you’ll use an authenticator app, which will generate a one-time code that you enter on the next screen. Then you’re logged in – that’s it!
In most cases it’s even easier than that. Most MFA approaches will remember a device. So if you come back using the same phone or computer, the site remembers your device as the second factor. Between device recognition and analytics the bank is likely performing—such as whether you’re logging in 20 minutes later from halfway around the world—most of the time the only ones that have to do any extra work are those trying to break into your account.
Understanding Privilege Escalation
Privilege escalation is the act of exploiting a bug, design flaw or configuration oversight in an operating system or software application to gain elevated access to resources that are normally protected from an application or user. The result is that an application with more privileges than intended by the application developer or system administrator can perform unauthorized actions.
Most computer systems are designed for use with multiple user accounts, each of which has abilities known as privileges. Common privileges include viewing and editing files, or modifying system files.
Privilege escalation means a user receives privileges they are not entitled to. These privileges can be used to delete files, view private information, or install unwanted programs such as viruses. It usually occurs when a system has a bug that allows security to be bypassed or, alternatively, has flawed design assumptions about how it will be used. Privilege escalation occurs in two forms:
- Vertical privilege escalation, also known as privilege elevation, where a lower privilege user or application accesses functions or content reserved for higher privilege users or applications (e.g., Internet Banking users can access site administrative functions or the password for a smartphone can be bypassed).
- Horizontal privilege escalation, where a normal user accesses functions or content reserved for other normal users (e.g., Internet banking User A accesses the Internet bank account of User B)
"Back to basics: Multi-factor authentication (MFA)" by unknown, NIST - APPLIED CYBERSECURITY DIVISION is in the Public Domain, CC0
"Privilege escalation" by Multiple Contributors, Wikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0