Have you ever noticed how Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and almost every other tech giant have implemented two-factor authentication (2FA) facilities for their users? Some like Google are even actively encouraging it.
The sudden focus on 2FA is mainly driven by the growing number of security threats experienced in recent years. Public outcry, court cases, and massive fines for data breaches are becoming a headache for every business today. So, they’re resorting to new technological tools like two-factor authentication to keep users safe and their business reputation intact.
Two-step verification has become a quick replacement for the once-popular security questions that companies used to verify users with. A 2FA typically involves something you know or possess, like a security token or a biological factor such as a fingerprint. It could also use a location-based identifier. For example, when you access an account from a different location, the company could detect it as unusual account activity and send you a security token to verify your identity. All these measures apply on top of your standard password-based authentication, hence creating a two-factor authentication for your accounts.
Why do you need two-factor authentication?
So, what’s driving the growing popularity of two-factor authentication? For businesses, it’s a cost-effective and easy-to-implement solution to amp up security on their platforms and products. During a time when data protection has become a hot topic among the public, media, and regulators, 2FA offers an effective option to strengthen the security protocols of organizations.
But it provides distinct benefits for users, too.
No more memorizing
According to studies, as many as 65% of people have trouble remembering passwords unless they write them down. Evidently, the biggest challenge about using passwords is remembering them. As a result, 78% are resetting passwords more often than they should. But this doesn’t seem to help either. More than half of Americans report forgetting their new password immediately after resetting it. Perhaps, this is why many have turned to password recycling. Surveys reveal that 66% of people are using the same password across different accounts.
A lax approach to passwords can only make things easier for cybercriminals to launch malware attacks and steal data. But two-factor authentication tools could help you avoid this common challenge. There’s literally no memorizing required for them. Instead, they often involve a randomly generated security token or a biometric verification such as face recognition. Of course, you’ll still need to remember your passwords. 2FA will simply work as a second shield to protect you against any vulnerabilities arising from password infiltration.
Stronger security for data
For years, security questions served as a second layer of identity verification on online platforms. But this technique is full of flaws. Often, things like your mother’s maiden name and your first pet aren’t exactly confidential. You could easily divulge these details during conversations without even realizing it. So, the level of security these types of questions could provide is certainly questionable.
2FA, on the other hand, is designed to overcome many of these issues. Security tokens are completely random, making them near-impossible to steal or predict. And biometrics are unique to you, making them equally difficult to hack. So, needless to say, a 2FA tool can add a stronger security layer to a personal account, making it much more difficult to breach.
Using two-factor authentication with ease
Today, various companies like email service providers, online retailers, financial services, communication platforms, social media, and streaming sites provide 2FA facilities. Setting up two-factor authentication is an effortless process on many of these platforms.
First, go into the security settings of your accounts and check the available 2FA tools. You next need to decide which option is best for you. Weigh in factors such as ease of use and convenience based on your lifestyle and daily habits. For example, portable USB token devices are easy to carry and use but might not be the best option if you’re forgetful. App-based software such as Google Authenticator is pretty convenient: there’s no extra effort required since you just need to install it on your regular smartphone. But if your phone crashes or gets damaged, you’re left stranded with no access to your accounts.
So, each 2FA tool comes with pros and cons. Evaluate them carefully before selecting what best fits you.
Security measures are still important.
Implementing two-factor authentication for your online accounts and devices doesn’t mean you can go easy on the regular security measures. By neglecting data protection protocols, you can compromise 2FA, too, and leave your data vulnerable to a breach.
For example, whether you’re using a hardware token or an app-based software, protecting your devices is crucial to keep your accounts safe. If they fall into the hands of a criminal, then the protective barriers erected by 2FA becomes ineffective. Similarly, if you’ve opted to receive the security token via email, then keeping your email account secure is essential.
It’s equally important to adopt strong passwords and avoid bad habits like recycling credentials and sharing them with others. Remember, 2FA is a second layer of data protection. Keeping both layers of data security tight is essential to boost data security and ward off any cyberattacks.
A password manager could be an excellent addition to these efforts. It could eliminate all the inconveniences of handling multiple account credentials. You can even apply two-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access to your password manager.
Many businesses are deploying advanced technology to keep user data safe. But this doesn’t seem to minimize cyber threats either, since hackers, fraudsters, and criminals also rely on progressive technology to launch attacks. For users, keeping accounts safe is an increasing headache as they struggle to balance their growing digital interactions with rising security threats. In such a context, two-factor authentication has become an essential tool. It eliminates many vulnerabilities of password-based protection with the addition of a stronger security layer.