What is Two Factor Authentication (2FA)?

What is two-factor authentication (2FA) and do you need it? Our Atlantic IT team has put together this handy guide to help. Keep reading for more details.  

You already know that keeping data safe is essential. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is through two-factor authentication (2FA). But what is this and why does it help ensure only the people who are meant to login do? Here’s what you need to know and why it is so helpful.

Extra Data Protection is Extremely Important

Before we talk about two-factor authentication specifically, we need to discuss why having extra data protection is extremely vital. As consumers, utilizing logins that include additional security steps like 2FA is unauthorized persons don’t access just an easy way of ensuring your personal information. If you have the opportunity to set up an account with two-factor authentication on any platform, you should do so. For businesses, the need is a little different. Requiring employees to use 2FA at login or making it so that customers use it to gain access to their accounts does more than just protect data. It can even stop a widespread breach from happening and save your reputation as an organization.

So… What Exactly is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of extra data security, let’s dive into what two-factor authentication entails. This is a particular set of protocols that require the person logging in to take additional action to confirm they are who they say they are.

Generally, this works after someone has inputted their username and password into the system. They are then prompted to take additional action before being granted access. Typical examples of steps include:

  • Inputting something you know, like a personal identification number or code;
  • Inputting data from something you have in your possession, such as a driver’s license or credit card number;
  • Receiving data on something in your possession, like a phone call or text message on your smartphone;
  • A biometric element such as a fingerprint or iris scan.

Most companies opt for something you know category, but highly sensitive information might warrant more drastic measures like biometrics. It just depends on the situation.

Company Options for Implementing 2FA

Companies have a choice in how they decide to implement two-factor authentication into their login protocols.

First, they can choose to use a hardware token. This is generally a fob or other small device that prompts the person logging in to swipe or scan the item or input a special code that appears on it. Most businesses don’t like this form of 2FA as the equipment is cost prohibitive and often misplaced by employees.

Smartphone use is the most common choice for those implementing 2FA. This is where either an SMS message or a voice call is made to the user to prompt an additional action. In some cases, this means inputting a special code they were sent or repeating a code during a computerized voice call.

When that isn’t sufficient, there is the option to use a special token. How this generally works is that the user adds a special app to their smartphone. When they attempt to sign in via a mobile browser, the app opens and provides specific credentials to the login page. It is a pretty secure way of implementing two-factor authentication, but it isn’t perfect and often comes with a higher level of accidental lockouts.

And, finally, there’s the option to use popups. How this generally works is that after entering a username and password, a special popup appears on your smartphone device. You must tap the popup button to gain access to the account you’re logging into.

2FA Works Well for Data Protection

In short, two-factor authentication works well to keep your data safe during the login process. To back this up, Google has even published a report that shows 2FA use blocks an estimated 100% of bot attacks. This makes it a very important element in terms of securing your data from unwanted access.

At Atlantic IT, we are dedicated to helping you with all of your techs and managed IT needs. Please contact us today to learn more about two-factor authentication and other data security topics.

Share the Post