UX Considerations for Better Multi-Factor Authenticationby@zacamos
748 reads
748 reads

UX Considerations for Better Multi-Factor Authentication

by Zac AmosApril 11th, 2024
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript

Too Long; Didn't Read

Multi-factor authentication helps secure accounts, but good UX is critical. To improve MFA UX, enable copy-paste for passwords, implement adaptive authentication methods, create fallback options, streamline the authentication flow, and regularly test and update.
featured image - UX Considerations for Better Multi-Factor Authentication
Zac Amos HackerNoon profile picture

Keeping online identities and sensitive data safe is always critical. Cyberthreats are constantly growing more sophisticated, so defenses must grow with them. Part of keeping users’ information secure is through multifactor authentication (MFA).

This tool adds layers of protection beyond the traditional password. Although MFA can enhance security, developers should also implement it to improve the user experience. Maintaining both assets empowers users, ensuring a wider adoption of MFA while bolstering their overall security.

What Is Multifactor Authentication?

MFA is a security system that requires users to provide more than one form of verification to prove their identity. It acts as a multilayered shield protecting accounts and information.

Instead of simply asking for a password, MFA adds one or two more questions to the mix. It may request a code sent to someone’s phone or a fingerprint or facial recognition. Combining different pieces of evidence ensures it’s the actual user trying to access their account and not someone else.

Is this extra work worth it? According to security experts, the answer is yes. Research suggests that MFA can stop about 80%-90% of cyberattacks, which rely on stealing or guessing simple passwords. A hacker can get a password, but they still need the other pieces of the puzzle to break into an account.

MFAs deter cyberattackers from hacking users by adding more hurdles, making unauthorized access more challenging. They add more protections to ensure online accounts remain secure.

The Importance of Good UX

Security measures are crucial for protecting online activities. However, the success of those safety protocols depends on the user experience. UX is a concept that impacts how people interact with technology. Don Norman — the godfather of UX — introduced this term in 1993 and stressed the importance of designing functional and user-friendly technology.

Good UX is about making tech as intuitive as engaging in everyday activities. When devices and platforms feel effortless, users are more likely to integrate them into their daily lives. Products designed with UX in mind should enable people to interact with them seamlessly without interruption.

Simultaneously, UX should balance protective security measures well without imposing unnecessary barriers. Therefore, MFA should feel effortless and ensure users feel safe and secure in a digital environment.

Enable Copy-Paste for Passwords

Making account access convenient is crucial for the overall user experience. One feature that enhances this process is copying and pasting passwords. While turning off copy-paste functionality may seem intuitive to avoid cyberattacks, it keeps users from adopting secure login management practices.

Around 30% of people worldwide rely on password managers to secure their login information. These digital vaults allow users to store passwords encrypted by a master password. These tools can generate and store complex identifiers for every account, significantly boosting security. Enabling copy and paste allows individuals to leverage their password manager without memorizing or manually entering them.

Implement Adaptive Authentication Methods

Adaptive or risk-based authentication can achieve a seamless yet secure user experience. This process evaluates the risk level or a login attempt in real-time. It considers various factors, such as someone’s location, device, network, time of access, and behavior patterns. Based on its assessment, it decides whether to allow or deny access or request additional verification.

Using adaptive authentication is helpful to users because it offers swift and hassle-free access. However, when the system detects unusual behavior, it automatically introduces additional authentication steps. This security measure operates on the principle that security should be as stringent as necessary but as unobtrusive as possible. It respects people’s time and effort, making safety measures supportive rather than disruptive.

Create Fallback Options

A good digital security strategy recognizes that even the best plans can encounter unexpected challenges. This is especially true for MFA, where the primary verification method could be unavailable. Implementing fallback options is a critical UX consideration to ensure continuous access while maintaining safety.

Fallback options are alternative methods for verifying a user’s identity when the primary function is unavailable. For example, if someone typically receives a verification code via SMS but doesn’t have cell service, a fallback option could be to send it via email. These other methods are essential for avoiding lockouts and ensuring people always have access to their accounts.

When designing fallback options, each method should be secure enough to prevent unauthorized access but not so cumbersome that it frustrates the user. Fallback options can include backup codes, other communication channels, and security questions.

Streamline the Authentication Flow

How can developers seamlessly integrate MFA into the user’s journey? Keep the primary objective in mind, which is to minimize friction while maintaining high-end security. A smooth authentication process involves simplifying input. Reduce the amount of information people need to provide by leveraging data already available. This will keep MFA straightforward and encourage users to adopt this protection method.

Another approach is to implement single sign-on (SSO). Using this in MFA reduces the need for multiple logins. Once users have verified their identity, they can access their applications without having to authenticate again. The fewer steps provided, the easier it is for someone to maintain strong safety.

However, it is important to realize that while streamlining is desirable, maintaining security is crucial. Simplifying the authentication process without making it too easy for intruders can be challenging. That is why continuously refining the flow is vital to ensure it meets users’ needs and security protocols.

Regularly Test and Update

Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving. Regular testing and updating are necessary to ensure MFA systems remain effective while providing a positive user experience. This helps identify potential vulnerabilities and improve functionality even when new security issues emerge.

Testing involves simulating various scenarios to ensure MFA is working as intended. This includes checking for usability with actual users to ensure the system is accessible. It also helps identify areas where designers can enhance people’s experience by reducing time or streamlining actionable steps.

Simplifying MFA Without Sacrificing Security Quality

While multifactor authentication can enhance digital security, its success relies on a user-centric approach. Developers should follow the latest design principles and user feedback so more people can use the safest system. Utilizing both approaches will help individuals feel confident while encouraging them to keep their MFA settings on.