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Build vs. Buy: The Value of MFA Implementation Through APIs and SDKs

Swaroop Sham
Swaroop Sham
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Security

Developers need to make their cloud-native applications secure, which can demand a lot of resources and take their focus off the core functionality of an app. But building security into an app doesn’t need to be challenging or time-consuming. Leveraging APIs and SDKs means developers can strengthen an app while actually reducing their workload. By adopting an identity and access management (IAM) solution with multi-factor authentication (MFA), companies can save their dev teams the headache of building a solution that meets today’s stringent security demands.

The reality: building MFA in applications is difficult

Mobile and web applications are under constant attack. When hackers target an app, they often focus on its authentication—a stolen or obvious password can offer the quickest access to data. With 81% of data breaches caused by weak or stolen credentials, this attack vector is paying dividends, which means developers are under more pressure than ever to build secure solutions (whether they're being accessed by employees, partners, or customers). For many, this means strengthening authentication by requiring an additional piece of information on top of usernames and passwords. Commonly referred to as MFA or 2FA (two-factor authentication), this prevents bad actors from gaining access to data simply because they’ve managed to steal a user’s credentials.  

MFA solves many access problems for users and IT admins—especially if it’s Adaptive MFA that takes the context of every login into account, meaning you don't have to challenge for an additional factor every time—but it’s a different story for developers. Building a complex IAM solution on your own is no mean feat. Many developers aren’t experts in security and identity management, so they’re left spending a lot of time researching and trying to make an in-house solution work. More often than not, they run into challenges that are difficult to overcome, which directs attention away from other crucial tasks and increases the time it takes to ship an application. The demands continue even once an app goes live, since developers are responsible for updates that keep it functioning properly across different operating systems.

The benefits of APIs and SDKs

Thankfully it’s not necessary to build authentication from scratch. You can make use of an identity service that not only takes the responsibility of building authentication off developers' hands, but also offers more robust security. By using a solution that’s been created specifically for this need, you’re leveraging the expertise of a dedicated IAM provider, and the result is better security.      

Integrating with an identity service that provides authentication with MFA means that developers can use pre-built components like the Okta Sign-In Widget to address common flows such as registration, MFA enrollment, sign-in, password resets, and MFA step-up authentication—or build a completely custom experience using Okta APIs and SDKs. Through this, developers can utilize all that the Okta Identity Cloud offers to secure their apps with next-gen access and provide users with a frictionless login experience. Developers get to employ the best security practices leveraging modern identity frameworks such as OpenID Connect and OAuth—and take advantage of a user-friendly interface for the consistent creation, maintenance, and audit of identity management policies.

Okta also offers a wide range of popular SDKs with support for desktop, web, and mobile app development platforms from .NET, PHP, and Java to Android and iOS. By using these feature-rich SDKs, developers can add Okta authentication with MFA and authorization to any app and leverage further features such as Single Sign-On and Lifecycle Management.

Simplifying authorization

In addition to solving the challenge of implementing authentication, developers also have to address authorization. Modern application development has evolved from monolithic architectures to microservices that can be consumed via API, often through an API Gateway. Unfortunately, APIs have also become a preferred attack vector for hackers, as evidenced by the recent Facebook breach which impacted 50 million user accounts. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2022, “API abuses will be the most frequent attack vector responsible for data breaches within enterprise Web applications.”

Okta API Access Management allows developers to enforce tight control over which users and servers have access to backend APIs. By partnering with leading API Gateway vendors, Okta can help developers easily provision and deprovision API access as part of the application user’s onboarding and offboarding lifecycle.

Okta solutions give developer teams everything they need to secure an application, all while saving weeks of developer time and greatly reducing the chances of a data breach. Considering the difficulty that comes with building authentication and authorization—and the possible repercussions if it isn’t done correctly—opting for a proven IAM solution just makes sense.

Learn more about Okta API Products, Adaptive Multi-factor Authentication, and API Access Management, or check out our top 17 SDKs and tutorials.

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Swaroop Sham
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Security

Swaroop Sham is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Security at Okta. His main focus areas include Multi-factor Authentication, Adaptive Authentication, and Security Integrations. He recently joined Okta, bringing with him over 10 years of experience in cybersecurity. He previously worked at Sift Science, Proofpoint, FireEye and F5 Networks. Swaroop has a Master's and Bachelor's degree in Computer Science.