What is two-factor authentication and why is it important?


It is hard to imagine a world without smartphones. But before smartphones came into being, protection solely involved the safeguard of the internet user and the personal computer. After smartphones came into being, the game changed totally, and the number of mobile users is always increasing. The devices unleashed internet users from static environments, and it is giving them an instant connection with almost every person and machines from virtually all parts of the globe. For that reason, they are doing more online banking, shopping, socializing, downloading entertainment and working online.

Enterprises are also implementing strategies for mobile engagement because they have noticed a significant potential to optimize the processes of their businesses and improve their relationship with employees and customers. But even though always-on access provides your users with many benefits and valuable convenience, on your side, it will create many risks and data breaches opportunities that possibly you have not protected your enterprise against. A quick example, Neiman Marcus and Target breaches compromised sensitive data of more than 70 million customers; the two organizations are still working to uncover where, and how the data breaches happened.

Enterprise technologies are getting complicated day after day, and the security needs of organizations are becoming more complex. As a result, organizations fail to protect themselves adequately and create unknown openings that compromise the user data before the organization does anything about it. To ensure that mobile devices are not the major cause of data breaches like the ones we mentioned above, organizations are implementing company-wide techniques that can safeguard both the internal and external data. One of the techniques is two-factor authentication.

What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is not a very new concept, but most companies started using it more recently as an additional security layer. With 2FA, a business can validate the identity of a user in one of three ways. The can do that through:
– Knowledge: use of something that the user already knows such as the username and password
– Possession: use of something that only the user can access such as a mobile phone, physical card and security tokens
– Inherence: use of the characteristics that are unique to a user such as fingerprints and the other biometric traits

Generally, SMS-based 2-factor authentication combines knowledge (username/password) and possession (PIN) aspects. Each time the factors are needed for authentication; the security model becomes more entrenched, which means that it can be hard to hack or bypass. Today, almost everyone has a mobile device with reach making it easier to use the 2-factor authentication.

Unlike other 2FA methods like voice recognition, Iris scanning, fingerprinting and face recognition, SMS-2FA eliminates the expensive but unnecessary complexities while still protecting the user data. Today, the strictly regulated financial institutions are also using 2FA for online-based transactions. Each time someone tries to access an account; they send a one-time PIN that the person has to use to complete the transactions.