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Microsoft Multi-factor Authentication

Help Desk

Setup Microsoft MFA

Microsoft Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) is similar to the DUO/MFA used to secure Columbia-based systems and accounts. However, it is a separate product and will only be used to access your USC Aiken email and campus-provided Microsoft Office account. It will not affect how you access other accounts and systems.

When will MFA be enabled on my account?

Microsoft MFA is rolling out to all USC Aiken account holders. This process began in 2020 and will continue through 2021. Users will be enabled in groups at the departmental level for faculty and staff, and by major for students.

  • Existing faculty and staff accounts: will receive an email message at least two business days before MFA is activated for their account.
  • New faculty and staff accounts: will require setting up MFA the first time USC Aiken email or Microsoft Office is signed into, beginning July 1st, 2021.
  • Existing student accounts: will have MFA enabled the weeks of July 18-24 and July 25- 31, 2021. An email reminder will also be sent out prior to each week.
  • New student accounts: will require setting up MFA the first time USC Aiken email or Microsoft Office is signed into, beginning July 6th, 2021.
  • Other account types: will be evaluated for MFA requirements. Account managers will be contacted to determine requirements and activate MFA as needed.
  • Accounts with MFA already enabled: will not see any changes and should continue using their accounts and Microsoft MFA as normally. If you receive any emails regarding an upcoming activation, please ignore them. These messages simply mean the group your account belongs to is about to have MFA enabled, but this will not affect your account since yours is already active.

What happens when MFA is enabled on my account?

Once MFA is activated, the next time you attempt to sign into either Microsoft Office or your USC Aiken email account, you’ll be prompted to complete MFA setup before the system will sign you in. You’ll see a dialog similar to the one shown below:

Micosoft MFA 2

When you click Next the system will walk you through the setup with clear detailed prompts. If you do run into an issue or have a question during the process, please contact the Help Desk for assistance.

Microsoft MFA is less intrusive than the DUO MFA authentication used on Columbia-based systems. Once you have successfully signed in you will only be asked to sign in again periodically. Typically, those authentication requests will only occur when you change your password, sign into a new Office application, sign in from a new device or geographical location, or clear your browser cache.

What options do I have to use for authentication?

Microsoft MFA offers four primary ways to authenticate. You can choose the one that works best for you, or add multiple and choose the one you want to use when you sign in.

  • Authentication phone (Call me): will call your mobile phone each time you need to authenticate. A voice prompt will provide code that you’ll need to enter on-screen to continue. *Please note that this option can occasionally lead to multiple back-to-back calls, which can be intrusive in some situations.
  • Authentication phone (Send me a code by text message): will send a code by text message to your mobile phone. You’ll just enter the code on the screen to continue signing in.
  • Office phone: works the same as “Call me” but is specifically set up to call the office phone listed on your profile. *Please note that this option can occasionally lead to multiple back-to-back calls, which can be intrusive in some situations.
  • Mobile app: uses the Microsoft Authenticator app on your mobile device. You have a choice to sign in using either a code copied over from your device or approving a sign-in with the touch of the screen.

How do I sign in after I’ve set up MFA?

Signing into your USC Aiken email or Microsoft Office after you’ve set up MFA is the same as it always has been, except you will occasionally be prompted to complete the additional MFA step.

You’ll enter your username and password as you normally do. If additional authentication is required, you’ll either see a dialog on the screen with instructions (or a prompt directly from the Authenticator App if you’ve installed it). Simply complete the action requested and your sign-in will complete as normal.

For instance, if you’ve chosen to have a text message sent to your mobile phone as your authentication method when you need to authenticate, you’ll see a dialog similar to the one shown below:

Micosoft MFA 3

You’d also immediately receive a text message on your phone like the one shown here:

Micosoft MFA 4

Simply enter the code from the text message into the authentication dialog and press “Verify”. Your sign-in will then complete as normal.

How often will I have to authenticate with Microsoft MFA?

You’ll typically only be prompted to complete MFA authentication:

  • After initial setup: you’ll be prompted to authenticate each Office app and device you use to access USC Aiken email and Microsoft Office. This is a one-time process.
  • When you change your password: you’ll be prompted to authenticate the next time you sign in. This usually only occurs once for the entire Office suite and email after each password reset.
  • When you sign in to a new Office application: you may be prompted to authenticate one time.
  • When you sign in from a new device or geographical location: you’ll be prompted to authenticate to confirm your identity. This is a highly important security check and key to better protection against phishing, hacking, and account compromise.
  • When you clear your browser cache or reinstall an Office application: you may be prompted once to update the credentials stored in the browser or Office application.

Other than those occasions, which don’t happen often for the average user, you should only be promoted periodically.

Just be sure to have your primary, or a secondary, authentication method available anytime you might need to sign in to avoid delays.

Is this MFA different from the DUO Authentication/MFA we’ve been using?

This is NOT the same MFA you use for accessing USC System accounts (SSC, myaccount.sc, Blackboard, etc.), Microsoft MFA will only be used to access Microsoft Office and USC Aiken email.

Are there benefits to using Microsoft MFA?

There are several benefits to having MFA on an account, especially when using Microsoft MFA in combination with Outlook and Microsoft Office.

  • Security is greatly increased: once MFA is active on your account it will be even more secure than it was previously. The chances of your account being compromised are greatly reduced when using MFA. Even if a third party did manage to get your username and password, they still would be unable to access your account.
  • End-user account management is available: allowing you to reset your Pacer Account and USC Aiken email passwords yourself! Users will now be able to reset their account password and manage other Office account options. You’ll no longer have to contact the Help Desk to get your account password reset. You can do it yourself 24x7 from the web!

Who should I call if I run into an issue while authenticating with Microsoft MFA?

You should call the Help Desk if you run into any issues while setting up or using Microsoft MFA. The Help Desk should always be your first point of contact for all issues related to your Pacer Account, Microsoft Office, USC Aiken email, or Microsoft MFA.