News of data breaches, hacked accounts, and stolen sensitive information has unfortunately become a daily occurrence. Nowadays, account security is a major concern for companies and their employees. It can pose a major threat to your employer or your business. Once you’re hacked, online thieves will have access to company contacts, calendars, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and other private company information.
So why should you start using two-factor authentication? Two-factor authentication (2FA) works as an extra layer of security online. This added security is used to ensure only authenticated users gain access to an online account. This authentication method is usually done through a one-time passcode sent in a text message, biometric scans such as fingerprint and face recognition, hardware key, or an authentication app.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication is the process that requests for more than the password of the user. Applications and websites use this method to make sure the user who’s trying to gain access is really the person he or she claims to be.
This extra level of multi-factor authentication can come in a variety of forms. Typically, you will receive a one-time code that you need to input in order to continue using a program or site. These codes can be sent through SMS or email. It can also be through your facial recognition, thumbnail, hardware key, or other authentication apps.
- How Does It Work?
Two-factor authentication uses two methods to ensure you’re the authentic user. This authentication method requires two out of three types of credentials before it grants access to a user’s account. The standard requirements are:
- Something the account owner knows – a numerical password, a personal identification number, or a pattern drawn out on the device’s touch screen
- Something the account owner possesses – usually a phone, but also key fobs
- Something the account owner has that’s unique to them – a fingerprint, voiceprint, or face ID
The standard login process with 2FA might go something like this: The user will provide the correct password associated with the account. Once the user successfully enters the password, a prompt will appear to ask the user to further confirm their identity by entering a random security code sent to their phone via text, email, call, or push notification. This security code serves as successful identity authentication. The user is then granted full access to the account.
- Why Two-Factor Authentication Is Important
The most important reason why you need two-factor authentication with a website, an account, or an app is that it becomes more difficult for someone to hack into your account. Passwords are no longer enough, and single-factor authentication is rapidly becoming obsolete.
The biggest risk for single-factor authentication is that it heavily relies on the diligence of users to protect their data by creating strong passwords. It can be difficult to memorize a certain group of characters. Most people have different passwords for the applications that they use.
The additional step with two-factor authentication will make it difficult for hackers to get in. They would need not only your username and password but also access to your phone or other personal devices.
Why You Should Start Using Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication plays a vital role when it comes to information security. It protects the data against potential breaches, keeps an eye on employee accounts, and strays away hackers.
Here are some of the reasons why you should start using two-factor authentication:
- Reduce Fraud and Identity Thief
Requiring more than two methods of identity verification makes hacking harder for cybercriminals. Two-factor authentication reduces fraud and identity theft by requiring additional security measures that thieves can rarely access.
- Combat Password Fatigue
Users who cannot remember multiple passwords may use the same password across multiple systems. Password fatigue is experienced and it’s a vulnerability that’s hard to fight with traditional password protocols. Adding two-factor authentication safeguards against password fatigue and adds an extra security buffer, ensuring that cybercriminals cannot hack even simple or repeated passwords.
- Achieve Compliance
Aside from encryption of data, there are compliance standards from federal, state, or other legal entities that usually specify that organizations need to implement 2FA for certain situations. This is especially true when it comes to protecting sensitive data like personally identifiable information or financial details. This means that implementing MFA is actually a step to take towards compliance.
- Streamline Safe Mobile Transaction
Now more than ever, people are completing transactions online and via mobile devices. Over-the-top apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger allow consumers to make purchases directly from the app, necessitating increased security against fraud through two-factor authentication.
- Simplify the Login Process
Two-factor authentication helps users to simplify their login process and helps improve user experience. 2FA adds another layer of security while decreasing the burden for users and customers in terms of verifying that they are who they say they are.
Types of Authentication Factors
- Authenticator Applications
Authenticator applications provide another level of security for two-step login and generally use a technique called a Time-Based One-Time Password. These authenticator applications are typically free for users to download to their phones or tablets from app stores and include products like Authy, Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator, FreeOTP, Aegis, Duo Security, and more.
Authentication applications generate codes independently based on a particular algorithm or random sequence.
- Universal Second-Factor Device (U2F)
Universal Second-Factor Device is an open standard for universal two-factor authentication, developed by the FIDO Alliance with the participation of world-famous corporations such as Google, PayPal, Lenovo, MasterCard, Microsoft, NXP, and Visa.
Authentication through this protocol is carried out with the help of a hardware module in the role of a physical medium such as USB tokens. The USB key is simply inserted into the corresponding desktop or laptop connector.
- SMS Codes
SMS codes generated by special services are the most common kind of factors used in mobile two-factor authentication. It’s quite convenient and doesn’t take much time for the users to access their codes. In addition, this method is effective in most cases, such as to protect against automated attacks, phishing, password brute-forcing, viruses, and the like.
- Hardware Tokens
Using a separate hardware token is considered one of the most secure authentication methods available as long as the key remains in the consumer’s possession. Users just need to insert the hardware token into their device to use it. If they use a mobile device for access, they may need a USB or USB-C port for their smart device.
- Biometric Data
This authentication method uses biometric user data such as fingerprints, facial features, eye iris, or voice recognition. The undoubted advantage of this method is its unmatched convenience. These factors contain a large number of unique data points that require sophisticated technology to replicate. Because of this, many organizations regard biometric authentication as one of the strongest methods for authenticating users.
Why Passwords Do Not Provide the Strongest Protection
In this digital era, passwords alone are simply not enough to secure your account and personal data stored on the internet. Advanced algorithms and hacking abilities have weakened the password’s ability to keep our accounts and data safe. Cybercriminals have a host of ways of tricking you into entering your username and password into a trick website, or they steal batches of usernames and passwords in data hacks of third parties.
Security experts tend to agree that passwords are the weakest means of securing a digital account or device. When only a password is needed to access an account, the malware installed on the device, or the use of phishing techniques, could result in a compromised device and easy access to private and confidential data.
How Secure Is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication will offer you an extra layer of protection besides passwords. It’s harder for cybercriminals to get the second authentication factor as they would have to be much closer to you in distance. This drastically reduces their chances to succeed in getting access to your personal information and accounts.
While two-factor authentication is generally a secure method of authentication, one should always be aware of possible risks. Human vulnerability can always have a vital role in its effectiveness.
Recently, some campaigns were found to send unsolicited emails that direct users to downloading malware from malicious websites or trick the user into opening malware through an attachment. The malware attachment intercepts the OTP codes sent to customers for authentication without the knowledge of the user.
With more and more massive data breaches of huge companies recorded each month, two-factor authentication is fast becoming standard procedure. Although there are ways to get around 2FA, it’s still safer than just using the old-fashioned username and password combo.
Set Up Your Two-Factor Authentication With Abacus
Two-factor authentication is essential for ensuring a proper level of access granularity and user identity verification. Abacus offers client partners comprehensive authentication services and programs that enhance business security and ensure that your company maintains optimal efficiency across all systems. Reach out to us at Abacus to set up your two-factor authentication today.