How to implement MFA for legacy applications

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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

Biden’s executive order applies to your company

President Biden’s executive order in May 2021 put federal agencies’ feet to the fire to modernize their cybersecurity defenses. Again, in March 2022, 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?

The problem for many companies is that their legacy applications aren’t equipped to handle advanced MFA. They were developed before passwordless technologies existed, so they can’t take on those kinds of demands.

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, moving it over to technology like Microsoft or Okta, and adopting the limited options they provide.

If you rewrite your application to understand an MFA solution, it will take hundreds of 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.

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

Apply MFA without touching your apps

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.

An Identity Orchestration platform uses an abstraction layer called an Identity fabric that sits between the application and the policies that govern authentication. Orchestration 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.

Other MFA benefits through Identity Orchestration

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

One common business challenge is the fact that 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.

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.

MFA is possible for your legacy applications

There’s good news for companies with legacy applications that can’t use MFA technologies. You can add MFA capabilities to your application without heavy development time or labor costs. Strata’s Maverics platform can be implemented in a matter of hours, and will always give you access to the latest MFA technologies.

Stay compliant with Biden’s executive order. Provide your customers with peace of mind that their information is secure. Protect your company’s sensitive data from cyberattacks. Most of all, avoid the downward spiral of continually rewriting and updating your application to stay current with evolving technologies.

Do you need to make MFA work for your legacy apps? Talk to our team to find out how much easier and more cost-effective it is using Identity Orchestration with Strata.

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