App Identity Modernization

How to implement MFA for legacy applications

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is part of your daily life. You log into applications that ask for your username and password and then require a second confirmation of your identity — usually by sending a code to your phone or email address. This is a standard multi-factor authentication (MFA) process, but the standard is quickly becoming substandard.

Hackers have figured out man-in-the-middle attacks that intercept the one-time code sent to a cell phone. Because hackers’ technologies are continually advancing, MFA technologies must constantly work to stay one step ahead.

That’s one of the reasons why Biden’s executive order on cybersecurity is such a big deal — especially if you have a legacy app that can’t use MFA.

Related: The difference between authentication & authorization — why it matters

What is multi-factor authentication?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security method that requires multiple verification forms before granting access to a system, account, or application, adding a layer of security on top of your username and password. MFA typically combines two or more independent credentials from different categories, such as:

  • Something you know — a password or the answer to a question
  • Something you have — a device or security token 
  • Something you are — fingerprints or facial recognition 

This approach makes it more challenging for unauthorized individuals to access accounts or systems, as they would need to provide multiple types of authentication, enhancing overall security.

Biden’s executive order applies to your company

President Biden’s executive order put federal agencies’ feet to the fire to modernize their cybersecurity defenses when the Biden administration urged organizations to “harden cyber defenses immediately.” The mandate speaks beyond the private sector to increase resilience and keep threats out.

Among the requirements is a mandate to put true MFA technologies in place. Software applications can no longer get away with merely using a username and password.

But it isn’t just government organizations that need to comply with the executive order. If your company is part of the federal government supply chain — even if you’re a vendor to a company in the supply chain — you must also comply with the executive order.

In fact, you could be a part of the government supply chain and not know it.

The deadline to comply with Biden’s executive order has come and gone. If you aren’t already in compliance, your company may be subject to heavy penalties and fines.

But what if your legacy applications aren’t even designed to implement MFA technology?

What are the MFA challenges for legacy applications?

Why can’t you just add MFA to legacy or non-standard applications? The problem for many companies is that their legacy applications aren’t equipped to handle advanced MFA. Many were developed before MFA existed, and most home-grown applications were not created based on standards, so they don’t understand modern protocols. 

You need to make your legacy application more secure, but there’s no way to get there easily. That leaves you with some dreaded options — usually rewriting the application to make it understand multi-factor or passwordless technologies. 

Rewriting an application typically takes hundreds of valuable developer hours and thousands of dollars in labor costs. And because MFA technologies are constantly evolving, this isn’t a one-time investment. Development will most likely be a continuous cycle; it’s like being on the identity modernization treadmill and never being able to get off.

That’s the bad news. But there’s good news, too: you have another option that’s both low on development resources and cost.

How to have MFA on all your apps without rewriting code

Equip your legacy app with the latest MFA technologies by pairing it with Identity Orchestration. You don’t need to change the application itself or touch any code to make MFA work for legacy applications.

Identity Orchestration uses an abstraction layer called an identity fabric that sits between the application and the policies that govern authentication. The Identity Orchestration software determines which assets are sensitive and makes a policy decision to send you to an MFA technology before granting access. 

The platform does this without touching the application itself. 

This solution can be implemented quickly — in just hours instead of months of development work. The latest MFA solutions are always available to you, and you don’t have to worry about being out of compliance with Biden’s executive order for a lengthy period.

Overcoming the challenges of adding MFA to legacy applications

Identity Orchestration resolves additional challenges that often plague applications with built-in MFA technologies.

Built-in MFA

One common business challenge is there isn’t a single authenticator or MFA provider that everyone likes. For example, RSA is ubiquitous in some places, but it’s completely unused in other regions. Your application needs various MFA technologies based on the user and the context. That’s too difficult to handle, even with solutions like Azure and Okta.

An Identity Orchestration platform can do those kinds of contextual checks and support many-to-many relationships very easily. 

Device reliance

There’s also the problem of losing your phone or another physical token. Many MFA solutions rely on devices that can be lost or stolen. Replacements take time, and that means you could be locked out of doing your work for a full day, a week, or longer. MFA can become so strong on protection that you actually lock out valid users.

Identity Orchestration can give you the flexibility to rely on multiple MFA options, with several recovery scenarios that let you keep working without interruption.

Cybersecurity insurance

Having MFA on all your apps is a must for cybersecurity insurance.  

Add MFA to your legacy applications with Identity Orchestration

With Identity Orchestration, it is possible to add MFA capabilities to your application without heavy development time or labor costs. Stay compliant with Biden’s executive order, keep your company and customers secure, and ensure you get cybersecurity insurance. 

Protect your company’s sensitive data from cyberattacks. Most importantly, avoid the downward spiral of continually rewriting and updating your application to stay current with evolving technologies.Learn more about how to use Maverics Identity Orchestration Platform to make MFA work for legacy apps. Get the Orchestration Recipe you need to add MFA to your legacy apps.

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