Why You Need Two-Factor Authentication

Why You Need Two-Factor Authentication

Although we still use passwords for almost everything, they should never be relied upon as a sole means of logging into an online account. Between tech-free “social engineering” scams and automated password guessers on the rise, passwords alone are simply not enough when it comes to protecting yourself and your business from identity theft and data breaches.

Two-factor authentication, abbreviated as TFA or 2FA, combines two different types of logins to greatly decrease the chances of someone cracking your password.

In fact, you can see hundreds of examples of TFA all over Athens. Any time you withdraw money from an ATM, you need to insert your card (authentication #1) before entering a PIN (authentication #2). This example combines something you have with something you know to verify your identity.

TFA provides an additional layer of security by verifying that the person accessing the account is the account owner. It works by combining two of the following types of authentication:

  • Something you know, such as a PIN code, password or answer to a question
  • Something you have, such as a debit card, mobile device or keychain authenticator
  • Something you are, such as facial recognition, a fingerprint or voice

Another common example of TFA involves entering a password, which is the first authentication factor, before entering a code sent to your phone by SMS or provided by a mobile app. Most online services now use TFA, although they usually only require users to go through the whole process the first time they attempt to log in from a new device.

How TFA Helps Protect Against Social Engineering Attacks

Today, most cases of identity theft come from “social engineering” attacks that require the victim to take a desired action, such as clicking on a malicious link, downloading a harmful file, or unwittingly giving away login or payment information to a criminal. TFA helps protect against these attacks, simply because it doesn’t rely purely on what the account holder knows, such as passwords and login names.

Phishing scams use human interaction and trust to trick people into giving up usernames, passwords, and other sensitive details. However, TFA relies on more than these pieces of information, which also means that social engineering scammers will be less likely to succeed.

Improving Usability and Mobile Device Management

Today’s workforce has moved far beyond the confines of the computer at the office desk to incorporate an ever-wider range of internet-connected devices into their daily routines. However, with the added flexibility and accessibility of mobile devices come increased security concerns. After all, when your confidential data is leaving the office all the time, you have every reason to be afraid of a data leak occurring.

TFA helps alleviate many of the security problems inherent to mobile devices. For example, a IT support provider can help you integrate the built-in biometric scanners that accompany many mobile devices (i.e., facial or fingerprint scanners) with your existing systems. This way, if the device ends up in the wrong hands, any confidential data stored within will remain inaccessible.

Although biometric authentication methods aren’t always cheap, they do allow businesses to balance security with usability, since they tend to be more user-friendly than apps or standalone authenticator devices.

Two-factor authentication is a must for any system that handles sensitive data, such as online banking, shopping, email, social networks, instant messaging apps and cloud storage accounts. It’s also especially important for any password managers and other unified login systems.

Fortunately, most online services, such as those provided by Google, Microsoft and Amazon, already offer the option. However, if you’re still using any systems that don’t support TFA, then it’s almost certainly time for an upgrade. If you have any questions about TFA or would like to learn more about how Athens Micro can help your organization set up TFA, please contact us at sales@athensmicro.com.

Athens Micro specializes in helping organizations meet their security obligations by implementing best-in-class solutions as a set of fully managed services. Contact us today to find out how your company can benefit from better IT security.

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