Two-Factor Authentication: What It Is and Benefits

two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, has rapidly grown in use over the years as the rise in cyber-security crimes have also grown. Most of us use it today without even realizing it, and it’s become incredibly effective at keeping away numerous cyber-attacks.

But what is it?

Simply put, 2FA is another layer of security for logins to sensitive information. Typically, when you log into an account it’s usually done via username or password. That, of course, is easy for groups of attackers to bypass given enough time and resources.

With 2FA, one more piece of information is usually required. So, say you’re logging into a bank account with your password. With two-factor authentication, you would also be asked for something like a phrase or security word. Bank of America, for instance, will show you an image you custom picked. You must enter the word associated with the image you also picked.

You’ll see it widely adopted in many other places too, like applications for loans. You’ll often be asked to create a personal PIN or have a backup password. Whatever the case, any time you log in or use an electronic service but must input a personal word beyond the regular username and password, that’s two-factor authentication.

How does this help you?

Mainly because it’s a simple and cheap way to give you an extra boost to security without any extra bells or whistles. Today, cyber-attackers are always expanding their methods to compromise your information. With a mix of social engineering, phishing scams, research and basic guesswork, a hacker that knows what they’re doing can typically bypass basic security layers without much trouble.

This goes double for companies or businesses too which require user logins to their networks. If they use mobile platforms or have remote location work policies, each of those are risky endpoints. However, with 2FA authentication, hackers need more than an employee’s login information to invade the network. As such, both individuals and companies can rest a little easier with this multi-step security method.

Are there any downsides?

In some cases, the extra layer of security requires more data as confirmation of the security “token” must be sent back to the network for authentication. This means it can cause slowdowns – either for workers or customers browsing a site. For the most part, though, it’s a relatively small problem and doesn’t usually affect many people at once.

Now that you have an idea of what 2FA is, you’ll likely notice it when logging into your bank account, a website for sales, or any website that handles highly secure information. If you’re a business and it’s perked your interest, consider using it for customers and network logins (if you haven’t already).

There are lots of ways to improve security and protect yourself and business. Two-factor authentication is a great way of creating a double layer of security. It thwarts numerous hacking attempts and keeps your information safe.

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