The world is shifting towards a digital landscape, and an increased risk of fraud comes with that. From data breaches to phishing scams, individuals and businesses alike need to protect their online accounts.
We long thought that passwords would do the trick. Simply choose a strong, unique password for each account, and we’re good to go, right? Wrong.
According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Report, 81% of hacking-related breaches involved stolen and/or weak passwords. As such, authorities have been pushing for the mass adoption of Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) as an added layer of security.
So, what exactly is 2FA? And why use it? This article will discuss the basics of 2FA and the benefits it can bring to online accounts.
What is Two-Factor Authentication?
Let’s start with the basics. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is an extra step in the login process to verify a user’s identity. You might also have heard of multi-factor Authentication (MFA). It is essentially the same thing—just using more than one factor to verify someone’s identity.
By adding this additional step, 2FA makes it much harder for hackers and fraudsters to access your accounts. Even if they manage to steal or guess your password, they will also need a second possession factor to log in. As an added benefit, 2FA doesn’t necessarily require any extra effort on the user’s end.
How Does 2FA Work?
Most devices now use password managers to “remember” and auto-fill passwords. Users get to a login page, and everything is already filled in—all they have to do is click “log in.” However, 2FA adds a quick extra step to this process. Before being granted access to an account, users are prompted for a second form of identification.
While there are many types of 2FA, they all fit into one of three categories:
- Something you know (the knowledge factor could be a password or PIN)
- Something you have (such as a mobile phone or security key)
- Something you are (includes biometric information, like fingerprints or facial recognition)
The user will then input this second form of identification, often using a one-time code sent via text message. Their input will be cross-referenced with the information on file, confirming their identity. Once that has been done, they will gain access to the account.
The Importance of 2FA Technology
As mentioned earlier, passwords are no longer enough to protect an online account. The rise in cyber-attacks has made it necessary to adopt additional security measures. Online fraud has seen a sharp increase in the past few years, with the FTC reporting $5.8 billion in losses in 2021 alone. That’s a 70% increase from 2020.
2FA can help prevent both personal and financial loss in the event of a breach or attack. However, 2FA isn’t just for individuals. It’s also crucial for businesses to protect sensitive information and customer data. In fact, some industry regulations require certain companies to implement 2FA technology.
In addition to protecting personal accounts and sensitive information, 2FA can also help prevent identity theft. As cyber criminals continue to find new ways to access personal information, 2FA offers extra protection against the unauthorised use of your accounts, resulting in improved security.
Finally, the pandemic led to many businesses implementing remote work policies, making it even more important to have secure remote access. 2FA can help ensure that only authorised individuals can access company accounts and information outside the office.
What Threats Does 2FA Help Prevent?
Now that we’ve discussed what 2FA is and why it’s important, let’s look at some specific threats it can protect against.
First and foremost, 2FA can protect against stolen or compromised passwords. Criminals can steal passwords through various means. They can even guess them using personal information found on social media or other public sources.
A stolen password makes it easy for hackers to access your accounts, but 2FA adds an additional layer of protection. Without the second form of identification, stolen passwords won’t be enough for them to log in.
Phishing is defined as a fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data. This includes usernames and passwords or credit card details. Scammers will disguise themselves as trustworthy entities in electronic communication. For example, they might impersonate a bank in an email, prompting you to enter your login credentials on a fake website.
Social engineering is a tactic that criminals use to manipulate individuals into revealing confidential information or performing actions that could compromise account security. It often takes advantage of human psychology. They use trust and obedience to trick victims into giving up sensitive information.
One example of this is “pretexting,” where a scammer creates a false scenario to convince someone to reveal information. They could pretend to be the CEO of a company, requesting an employee’s login information for a “project.”
A brute-force attack uses automated software to guess passwords repeatedly until they can gain access. These attacks can be especially dangerous if the password is weak or easily guessed, as the software can quickly go through a long list of possible combinations. Strong passwords can increase your security in the amount of time it would take for the software to guess them. But eventually, the attacker will be able to crack the password.
One of the more sophisticated authentication methods, keylogging, involves installing malware on a computer. The software will track and record every keystroke made on the infected device. It allows hackers to easily “see” login credentials, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information. Once the software has been installed, unknown to the user, there’s not much that can be done to prevent keylogging.
These are just a few of the potential threats that 2FA can help protect against. It can also defend against unauthorised access through lost or stolen devices and account takeover attempts. In short, implementing 2FA technology can significantly enhance security. It reduces the risk of falling victim to any type of cyber-attack.
What are the types of 2FA?
So, we now understand why 2FA is essential and the threats it can protect against. It’s time to dive deeper into the inner workings of 2FA. Here are some examples of the different types of 2FA:
The requesting company will need your phone number in order to send a one-time code via text message. Before accessing an account, the user must enter this code in addition to their login credentials. You can also use voice calls and emails for this purpose. SMS is the most common form of 2FA.
Time-Based One Time Password (TOTP)
TOTP generates a unique verification code that can only be used once and expires after a certain period (usually a few seconds). This code is generated through authenticator apps on your mobile device, like Google Authenticator. Therefore, it can only be accessed through your personal device and adds an extra layer of security.
Push notification verifications are those that require you to confirm login attempts through an app on your mobile devices. The requesting company will notify the app, prompting you to approve or deny the request. This method adds convenience. There is no need to manually enter a code while still providing added protection against unauthorised access.
Apple’s Trusted Devices method falls under this category. The company’s devices, such as a MacBook, iPhone, and Apple Watch, will communicate with each other to verify your identity. The logic behind this method is that if you lose one device, a thief will not have access to your other devices to approve login attempts.
WebAuthn is a newer form of 2FA that uses a hardware token, such as security keys or biometrics, to confirm login attempts. Biometrics include fingerprints and facial recognition. Of course, hardware devices require an upfront cost, even though they provide a higher level of security. But with big companies like Apple and Google starting to adopt WebAuthn, we’ll likely see more extensive use of this technology in the future.
Other types of 2FA
The list above is not exhaustive but gives an overview of some of the more common forms of 2FA. You’ll also encounter other types, such as email or security questions. FIDO U2F is another hardware-based 2FA option, like WebAuthn. It uses a physical USB or NFC device to confirm login attempts.
Which industries use 2FA?
Overall, 2FA security systems are not only becoming more necessary for online security but easier to adopt. It may require a slight change in your login routine, but it’s worth the added protection for your accounts and personal information.
Many websites and applications now offer 2FA options, including social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as well as email services like Gmail and Outlook. They need to protect sensitive user information and data.
In industries handling financial or personal information, such as banking or healthcare, 2FA is also necessary to maintain secure communication and transactions. Amongst other banking fraud scenarios, account takeover is a severe threat in these industries, so 2FA can prevent a breach of confidential information. If a hacker gains access to your online banking account, for example, they could potentially transfer funds or change account information without your knowledge.
Government agencies also use 2FA to protect national security and confidential information. In fact, it’s required for certain government employees to use 2FA when accessing sensitive data. That’s because government data can be a target for fraudsters. These scammers may be looking to sell or manipulate confidential information.
Finally, the travel industry has also begun to adopt 2FA for added security. Airlines, hotels, and online travel agencies want to protect customer information, such as credit card numbers and passport details, from unauthorised access.
Our solution – Udentify
It’s a convenient, easy-to-use solution for added security in today’s digital world. Using biometrics such as face and voice match, Udentify adds a powerful layer of protection to your online accounts.
This passwordless authentication method is the most robust identity proofing available. We help you comply with KYC and AML regulations, meeting the security requirements for industries handling sensitive information. Using an ID alongside NFC or OCR with a selfie to verify the user’s identity in 13 seconds.
Plus, Udentify works with most websites and applications to ensure you can stay protected no matter where you’re logging in. Deliver a seamless onboarding process and protect your business—try Udentify today.