Multi-Factor Authentication is now supported

The FOI Assist software now supports Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

I am pleased to announce that the FOI Assist software now supports Multi-Factor Authenticaion (MFA). This has been a highly requested feature in 2022, as institutions prioritize IT security and demonstrate increasing sophistication in their use of cloud-based services.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

When signing into an online service such as the FOI Assist software, traditionally, a user provides their user name to tell the serivce who they are, and then provides a password which is used to “authenticate” their identity.

A password that is “hard to guess” can be an effective authentication tool on its own. Unfortunately, security breaches related to passwords are increasingly common; passwords can become vulnerable if they are too simple, if they are re-used at multiple sites, if they are too similar to passwords that other people use, or if they are somehow revealed to a third party, whether through malware, social engineering, or simply being seen by another person.

Increasingly, online services are adding a new way to keep accounts more secure known as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). (MFA is also known as “Two-Factor Authentication” (2FA) or “Two-Step Verification”.) With MFA, when you sign into your account, you will sometimes be asked to provide additional information, known as a second “factor”, before your identity is authenicated and you are permitted into the system.

This second “factor” can take many forms: it can involve your fingerprint, facial recognition, a text message sent to your phone, a special security device, or a special time-sensitive code (TOTP) your smartphone generates to confirm that it’s really you trying to log into the system.

MFA in the FOI Assist software

The FOI Assist software has adopted TOTP MFA, one of the most commonly used and more secure methods of MFA. This type of MFA involves installing a special “Authenticator” app on your smartphone and then connecting the smartphone app with the FOI Assist software. This connection is performed by using your smartphone camera to read a special QR code (a square 2D barcode) generated by the FOI Assist software.

After MFA is set up and enabled, the FOI Assist software will occasionally ask you to generate a code from your Authenticator app before logging in to confirm that it’s really you trying to log in, and not a third party who has obtained your username and password without authorization.

Turning on MFA in the FOI Assist software is entirely optional, but is recommended.

To enable TOTP MFA in the FOI Assist software, these are the main steps:

  1. Install Google Authenticator or a compatible Authenticator App on your Android or Apple smartphone.
  2. Log into the FOI Assist software on a computer and select the “Account Security” button to visit the “Setup MFA” screen pictured above.
  3. Connect your Authenticator app on your phone to the FOI Assist software by selecting the “plus” icon inside Google Authenticator on your phone and then pointing your phone camera at a special QR code (2D barcode) generated by the FOI Assist software.
  4. Once your Authenticator app has read the QR code generated by the FOI Assist software, type in the time-sensitive access code generated by your phone into the FOI Assist software and select “Submit Code and Enable MFA” to turn on MFA.

From now on, you may be asked to provide a time-sensitive code from the Google Authenticator app on your phone whenever you log into the FOI Assist software. This challenge is more likely to occur after you have “signed out” manually, or when you use the FOI Assist software from a new device for the first time.

Looking for help?

Additional assistance with setting up MFA is available by selecting the question mark “?” icon at the top-right of the Setup MFA screen for detailed instructions. Additionally, FOI Assist clients can rely on their free support to send questions by email, or to book a support videoconference to go through the MFA setup together.

Run your FOI process securely from the cloud

If you are at a provincial or municipal institution in Ontario, the best way to process FOI requests remotely from the office or from home is to use the FOI Assist software. The FOI Assist software runs “in the cloud” and is accessed via your web browser, just like LinkedIn or Facebook. And it has a modern, easy-to-use interface; a 30-minute videoconference is all it takes to get your institution up and running.

The FOI Assist software is perfect for team collaboration across various locations. Absences, sick leaves and employee transitions are easy to handle as well, because the FOI Assist software keeps all of your requests organized in a manner that’s easy for anyone to understand and “run with”.

For more information, read the FOI Assist software release announcement, or better yet, book a demonstration to see for yourself how much of the FOI process the FOI Assist software can take care of for you.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Published by Justin Petrillo

I have created the FOI Assist™ software to help Ontario’s provincial and municipal government institutions of all sizes track and respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. For most of my career I have been a lawyer, advising clients on commercial, intellectual property and FOI/privacy issues. From 2013 to 2015, I managed the FOI program for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee while serving as Legal Counsel to the Games. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I obtained a computer science degree and worked as a software developer at several well-known technology companies.

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