What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and How Does It Work?

Technology has evolved over the years, and so have hackers. Traditional security measures, i.e., username and passwords, are no longer enough to secure your personal information from cybercriminals. Not only does using a password mean changing it regularly, but one misstep, such as using a public computer terminal, can open your information to hacking. Also, you will have to come up with multiple passwords for your different social media accounts. Imagine the lengths you must go through to remember your passwords!

You can already imagine the hassle that occurs when an account gets hacked. For starters, you will be locked out of your account. If your account is linked to your bank, cyber criminals can easily access that too. With this kind of vulnerability associated with traditional authentication methods, you will need something stronger to protect your data. This is where two-factor authentication (2FA) comes in.

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Two-factor authentication is a security measure that is becoming widely used to add an extra layer of protection against hacking. It involves a two-part verification process, which requires the user to provide two authentication methods: a passcode or password and a different authentication factor. Unlike single-factor authentication (SFA), which uses only a passcode or password, 2FA uses additional authentication factors such as biometrics like facial or thumb scans, a security token that needs to be scanned prior to entry, or a one-time PIN generated using a mobile application, just to name a few. 

This security measure prevents hackers from accessing a user’s account easily, even when they have their passcode. In order to gain control of the account, they will need to pass the second layer of authentication. Two-factor authentication is commonly used in areas where sensitive information is handled. Companies with an online presence utilize 2FA to protect their clients’ data and assets from being breached.

Authentication Methods

The most widely used method for authentication involves using passwords for accessing accounts. However, to increase security measures, two-factor authentication includes an inherence or possession factor. Below, you can find a list of authentication factors that can be implemented while adopting this system.

Something that only the user knows

This is where the password, passcode, PIN, or even an answer to a security question falls in. The user needs to provide this information after entering their username in order to be given access to the account. The detail must match what was previously enrolled in the system before access is allowed. This falls under the knowledge authentication factor.

Something owned by the user

Also called the possession factor, this authentication method is owned or given to the user. For example, an ID card, a security token, or a one-time password produced by a hardware authenticator. The user is required to bring any of these items with them at all times to fulfill the two-factor authentication to gain access to the system or entry to the premises.

Something that the user is

The third type of authentication factor is the inherence factor or something the user has. It is a biometric factor wherein the user must provide a facial or fingerprint scan. Advanced biometrics can also use voice authentication to authenticate their account.

Somewhere the user is

A location factor can also be implemented by limiting authentication devices to a specific location only. Companies that employ this method can use GPS tracking to determine the area where their system is being accessed and deny access if it is beyond the specified location.

Time Factor

This authentication factor restricts authentication from the user within a specific time. The second authentication must be entered before the time runs out.

Most of the 2FAs being utilized involve the first three in the list, but organizations that handle sensitive information are more likely to implement multiple-factor authorization. 

How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

The two-factor authentication process will vary depending on the vendor or application used. However, there are similarities in the process.

  • When you sign in to your account, you will need to provide your username and password or passcode. The server will authenticate it based on analyzing the user’s data stored in their database.
  • If a password is not used, the vendor or system will generate a unique code for the user to enter for the first authentication stage and store it in its system.
  • The second authentication login takes place. This can take the form of an ID, biometrics, or other forms of authentication that only the user will have in his or her possession.
  • The user may need to enter a one-time code to verify their second authentication.
  • After both authentication steps are completed and verified by the system, the user will be given access to their accounts or to the building.

Keep in mind that two-factor authentication (2FA) requires two different forms of authentication. Even if you use two authentication methods that fall within the same form, such as a password and a secret question, it is still considered 2FA.

Passwords and passcodes alone are not secure enough these days. There are many opportunities for hackers to gain access to your account, particularly if you leave your login credentials around the office or share them with a friend or co-worker. Additionally, hackers can easily hack into your account through brute-force or other hacking methods when given enough time.

That’s why implementing a two-factor authentication method is important. It provides an extra layer of protection against possible hacking attempts since it requires another authentication factor.

Is Two-Factor Authentication Worth Implementing?

Implementing two-factor authentication can be a hassle; however, not implementing it can have worse consequences. 

Therefore, it is recommended to implement a system that requires two-factor authentication. 

Are There Any Vulnerabilities?

Two-factor authentication may be more secure than single-factor authentication, but it also has vulnerabilities. The first one is the human element. Hackers can gain access to a user’s account through phishing, tricking them to share personal information. The second is by hacking into the authenticator hardware or bypassing biometrics.

This may be challenging to cybercriminals but it is possible to get around these two layers of security. The best way to prevent this is to add other layers of security systems that can stop unwanted access.

Stepping up the security measures used in your online accounts or in the workplace is the best course to take to protect valuable information. Though incorporating security methods into your business requires time and money, the protection and security it brings can give you peace of mind.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Solutions (AITS) is committed to providing intelligent solutions to meet the business needs of companies. We offer a range of services, such as two-factor authentication entry points and customized business solutions, to help streamline processes and enhance overall efficiency. Our goal is to ensure that businesses have a tailored system that meets their unique needs.

If you want to know more, you can reach out to us at sales@aitssg.com. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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