• October 5, 2016

Two-Factor Authentication: Keeping Security on Lock

Keeping hackers at bay an extra step at a time.

Fun fact (if you’re a hacker): Only 6 percent of organizations believe they are “extremely well prepared” for a security breach, according to a recent survey conducted by MIT. It’s not hard to imagine that even fewer individuals feel the same way about their personal digital security. And yet with the frequency of security breaches on the rise and at tremendous costs—as much as $7.7 million per affected organization, according to one study—everyone should be doing more to keep their data safe.

The silver lining to an otherwise gloomy story is that thwarting would-be hackers doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, even adopting some fairly basic tactics can go a long way toward making yourself a less attractive target for a cyber attack. One such tactic that should definitely be on your radar is two-factor authentication, or 2FA.

The 411 on 2FA

While 2FA isn’t new, it can be a very effective deterrent because it makes hackers’ lives more difficult. The way it works is simple. With traditional one-factor authentication, all that’s standing between you (or anyone else) from getting into your accounts is a username and password. As soon as anyone gets their hands on this information, whether through password mining or otherwise, they can access your account.

2FA adds another layer of complexity (and thus security) to that process by requiring a second dimension or factor to complete the login process.

Random access codes are a good example of a second factor. Just think of the key fobs that some companies give their employees. These little devices generate six-digit codes that users need to enter as part of the login process when accessing their company’s network remotely. Similarly, think of how social media companies like Twitter text you a code that you have to use when logging into your account on a new computer.

In both cases, in addition to entering your username and password, you have to provide the access code to get into your account. And since this second factor is random, independent of you, and coming from a different source, it can be very difficult for hackers to get their hands on.

No Silver Bullets

So is 2FA the answer to all of your security concerns? Not exactly. While it can be very effective, the reality is that no person or company is completely immune to cyber attacks regardless of what they do.

Not only that, but there are also practical considerations to keep in mind. While adding an extra factor to your authentication process provides extra security, it’s also an extra step. That means it takes more time and could lead to more frustration among users. Given how high the stakes are, that may be a small price to pay. Even so, however, 2FA is only one piece of a larger security puzzle that people and organizations need to be paying increasing attention to.

Like this story? Learn more secrets to maintaining a secured environment and staying a step ahead of the threats.