Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): What It Is And How It Works

A padlock amongst various electronics, representing what two-factor authentication is.

Written by: Jay H.

Keeping your data secure is more critical now than ever. With hackers and scammers continually looking for ways to gain access to your personal information, you must take steps to protect yourself. An easy and effective way to secure your data is by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA). Find out what two-factor authentication is and how it works.

2FA Provides Stronger Security

Adding 2FA improves the security of your accounts. By adding this extra layer of protection, hackers cannot access your accounts with your passwords alone. This added protection is vital because data breaches are happening regularly in the digital world. We strongly recommend enabling two-factor authentication for all of your accounts if you have not done so already.

How Two-Factor Authentication Works

Although the methods of two-factor authentication vary, usually the process for verifying your identity follows this basic framework:

  1. The user logs into the website or service with their username and password.
  2. Once the credentials are verified, additional verification is sent to the second-factor device.
  3. The user must confirm their identity by completing the additional authentication on their second-factor device.

Methods of Two-Factor Authentication

Using the basic framework we’ve explained above, there are various forms of two-factor authentication. Here are several of them:

  1. Time-based one-time passcodes (TOTP): Time-based one-time passcodes (TOTP) are single-use and quickly-expiring passcodes generated by an authentication application. The user has to retrieve the code from the device and enter it before it expires to gain access to their account. 
  1. SMS and text verification: A code sent via text message or delivered as a voice message must be entered to verify your identity. 
  1. Push notifications: You must download a push notification app onto your phone. Once you enter your credentials onto a website, your device receives a push notification. Then you will be asked to confirm your log-in, and your verification will grant you access to the website or service. 
  1. U2F devices: Universal second-factor (U2F) devices are hardware that exclusively verifies logins. With a U2F device plugged in, the user taps the tool to gain access to their account. 
  1. Biometrics: To access an account, users will have to prove their identity through their physical features. Most commonly, this is through fingerprint scanning. Once completed, the user will be able to log in.

Two-factor authentication is a significant step to take to protect your accounts; however, it is not the only method you should rely on to keep your information safe. Therefore, consider using 2FA in conjunction with comprehensive security policies and applications developed by security experts for your business. Contact us now for more information on securing your business from cyber attacks and other threats.

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