soviet submarine | multi-factor authentication

Da, Comrade: The Saving Grace of Multi-Factor Authentication

Here’s an anecdote about multi-factor authentication…

The Cold War put U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at odds. Since 1960, Khrushchev had been shipping ballistic missiles to Cuba, as part of a pact to defend it. He believed that Kennedy was weak and that he would let the threat pass without action.

For two years, he was right. But in October 1962, Kennedy decided to blockade Cuba from incoming Soviet ships. Historians largely agree that this was the most tense moment in the entire cold war. There was no telling if tomorrow would ever come. One rash decision from either side could spell doom for the entire planet.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was in full swing.

The Situation

On October 27 1962, Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 was on the run. Eleven U.S. Navy destroyers and one aircraft carrier closely followed B-59, dropping depth charges to try and get it to surface. The sub dove deeper into the water to avoid the ships, eventually going so far that they could no longer pick up radio broadcasts.

Control of B-59 came down to three men: Captain Savitsky, the political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and flotilla commander Vasili Arkhipov. Everyone aboard feared that nuclear war had erupted above. Since they couldn’t contact Moscow for further orders, they also couldn’t gain any additional information about the situation above. The submarine’s batteries were running low and the air conditioning had failed.

In other words, they were sitting in a hot oven with little oxygen and even less time to make a decision.

The Heroic Call

Captain Savitsky and Maslennikov voted to launch a nuclear torpedo above. The torpedo, if launched, would wipe out the entire American fleet and spark all-out nuclear war between the Soviets and the Americans.

Soviet engagement protocols required all naval captains to authenticate the usage of nuclear weaponry. In a miraculous display of calm, Arkhipov disapproved of the decision. Instead, he convinced the other two to surface and await further orders from Moscow.

The sub surfaced, and managed to return to Russia. Without knowing it, Arkhipov had saved the entire world from nuclear annihilation.

The Need for Multi-Factor Authentication

The Soviets were unable to fire their weapons unless they had separate entities verify and check the launch command. While far less dramatic, multi-factor authentication (MFA) serves a similar purpose.

With MFA, a user can only gain access to their program or file after successfully verifying their identity to an authentication mechanism. The authentication methods vary on a case-by-case basis, but they can include a combination of a randomly generated PIN, a secure password, and even biometrics such as fingerprint scanners.

Having MFA is a surefire way to reduce security risks. It prevents malicious cybercriminals from easily accessing your data, and saves you the headache of ever dealing with data breaches from poor security habits.

At EaseTech, we can help establish more secure policies for you and your business. To learn more about MFA and how it can help you, feel free to reach out to us. We’re more than happy to help.