What Is Two-Factor Authentication?
You may have heard of two-factor authentication, sometimes called 2FA for short. Banks and credit card companies often use 2FA for an additional layer of security to protect consumer accounts. You may have also had to use 2FA for social media. Here’s what you need to know about two-factor authentication, how it can benefit businesses, and what to do next to provide your applications with comprehensive security.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) Explained
Two-factor authentication is the most common type of multi-factor authentication — a security protocol that requires users to verify their identity in more than one way. In the past, single-factor authentication was the only form of verification required. This was the user’s password and if a person had access to the password, or could guess or hack it, they could easily access the application. Users tend to keep passwords easy to remember if they have to log in regularly to an application, making it even simpler for hackers to do their job.
While encouraging the creation of long, randomly-generated passwords with capital letters, symbols, and numbers helped reduce the likelihood a breach will be successful, sophisticated hackers quickly developed software that can crack even fairly complex passwords. With the introduction of a secondary form of authentication — and then later multiple forms of authentication — hackers began to have a more difficult time fraudulently accessing applications.
How 2FA Works
For example, a person may enter their name and password into an application and then be required to enter a short numerical code that has been texted to the mobile phone number on file. This means that to be successful, a hacker must be able to bypass the username and password and have the individual’s mobile device on hand to receive the texted code. If the code is not entered in a timely manner, a new code must be requested. Other types of two-factor authentication include security questions, fingerprints, a phone call, or another type of verification. In some cases, a company may choose to use three or more types of authentication or multi-factor authentication. What type of authentication you choose depends largely on the operational nature of your business and its security needs.
Biometrics & 2FA
For even more security, you can use biometrics as one of your authentication methods instead of just a password and a code. This is particularly helpful for companies that have extremely sensitive customer data or are protecting highly sought-after trade secrets. The most commonly used form of biometrics in a multi-factor authentication setting is the fingerprint. Modern smartphones have fingerprint technology that does more than just unlock the phone. It can be synced with banking, financial, social, and other applications that ensure the person logging into a platform belongs there.
Why Do Businesses Need Two-Factor Authentication?
Businesses of all kinds are at risk of a cybersecurity attack every hour of every day. While taking action to protect your network helps reduce this risk significantly, it can never be truly eliminated. Two-factor authentication is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to secure your network and make it more difficult for hackers to access the information they want. Companies who have employees that work remotely or use their own devices need 2FA even more — mobile networks are highly risky compared to traditional in-office networks.
2FA Pros & Cons
Here are some quick pros and cons of two-factor authentication to help you decide if 2FA is right for your business:
- Substantially decreases the chances that a hacker will be able to successfully breach an application
- Increased flexibility and mobility for employees who can work remotely by logging into secure applications with 2FA
- Reduced password reset cases as consumers can take steps to recover their own password using their second or even a third form of authentication
- Fraud reduction
- Greater time to log in to applications
- 2FA is often provided by a third party, meaning your company lacks control over the service should a problem arise
- 2FA systems do require maintaining a database of users and their methods of authentication, which may be challenging for small businesses
Although the biggest drawback of two-factor authentication is the additional step and its inconvenience, it’s a small price to pay for substantially better security. For most companies, the benefits of 2FA are worth the few cons.
Contact tca SynerTech Today
If your current IT provider isn’t working with you to implement 2FA for your company’s applications, you need a new one. At tca SynerTech, our skilled network security technicians will review the security gaps in your network and help you implement software and other tools to close the gaps in your network and increase your overall security. To learn more about two-factor authentication and how it can benefit your business, call now at (269) 428-7000.