Two factor authentication is NOT a marketing tool, but is a security tool. Two factor authentication (2FA) insures your identity any time you sign in to an account requiring a password. In essence, 2FA is a form of password protection.
Two factor authentication keeps hackers and intruders out of your digital accounts by adding a second step to the login process. In addition to providing a password, 2FA requires a second proof of identity.
There are 3 forms of authentication (proof of identity):
- Something you know
- Something you have
- Something you are
By requiring 2 of the 3 forms of identity, breaking into your email, website, social media accounts becomes virtually impossible, when compared to a 1 step process such as requiring only a password.
Passwords are an example of something you know. Passwords, however, can be easily stolen through either:
- Keylogger - a form of malware which monitors every keyboard stroke you make
- Brute Force - hackers use programs to figure out your passwords by trial and error
- Shoulder Surfing - watching your screen "over your shoulder" as you type on your computer or ATM
- Corporate Security Breaches
- User Negligence - many of us use the same password over and over again. The password of one account is stolen and thieves now have access to your other accounts because all your passwords are the same or closely related
With the addition of a second step requiring additional information, however, passwords are not necessarily obsolete.
Something You Have
The keychain fob, like a cell phone, is unique to the user (everyone has their own FOB or cell phone). This is an example of "something you have." Before the popularity of cell phones, keychain fobs would be issued for additional online security. In addition to a password, the user had to identify themselves by entering a randomly generated passcode which changed every few seconds. The passcode was proof that the fob was in the user's possession.
Instead of fobs, text messages sent to the users cell phone are commonly used as method of employing "something you have." There are now apps for the cell phone which function as authenticators.
Something You Are
Fingerprints, retina scans, iris images, facial recognition, DNA and voice are all forms of biometric information used to prove identity. Biometric information is "something you are" and is unique to each individual.
Examples of this type of authentication are Touch ID and Face ID used by Apple on iPhones where users unlock their personal phones with use of their fingerprint or image of their face.
A disadvantage of using biometric information, however, is that it can not be changed if lost or stolen.
Use two factor authentication (2FA) to safeguard your website and other digital platforms requiring login information. 2FA is becoming very popular due to it's simplicity, ubiquity of cell phones and its' efficacy.
Password managers can help you avoid the pitfall of using the same or similar passwords for all your sites. I personally use one to keep track of the hundreds of personal and customer accounts...by just remembering one unique password!
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