Whether we are familiar with it or not, we all have come across two-factor authentication or two step verification, frequently abbreviated as 2FA. It is not a recently discovered technology; the patent was passed three decades back in the year 1984.
What is 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication)?
2FA or Two-Factor Authentication is the process of confirming the identity of an individual by two distinct components. These components can be chosen from something that is known or provided to the user (PIN number, password, secret question), the user’s possessions (mobile phone, bank card, key) or an entity that is unique and closely associated to the individual (fingerprint, retina).
Two-factor Authentication includes two of these three methods. Businesses generally make use of entities like pin number and mobile phone. Methods like fingerprint verification are usually extremely costly to put in use.
What is the purpose of using 2FA?
2FA is a means by which an additional security is provided to your account. There was a time when passwords were sufficient for keeping an account safe from hackers and other cyber threats. Nonetheless, today’s scenario necessitates the facility to have something other than passwords to protect your login. The world has come close in the present times and hence the sole authentication by a password has become a weak security option.
It has become easy to find out the passwords by hacking software created by perpetrators of cyber crimes. Viruses and malware can also do the needful to compromise the safety of an account. Such instances can be significantly reduced if 2FA is tactfully used.
What is mobile phone 2FA?
Mobile phone two-factor authentication was introduced to address the problem that may arise with the authentication carried out with the help of the user’s possession. A user may not have a bankcard or key or other similar things with him all the time. Moreover, if it is misplaced by the user or someone steals it, then retrieving the account becomes almost impossible. It can be very expensive to get such authentication tokens replaced.
Mobile phone two-factor authentication comes handy if you wish to get rid of such issues. A code would be sent to the phone by SMS or phone call. The code would consist of a set of numbers and it would be valid for a limited period. It becomes specifically useful because no special token is required for authentication and people generally have their cell phone with them throughout the day. It also has the provision that the user can request a new “one time password – OTP” if the user cannot finish the login process at the first time. It becomes more secure since the old code is automatically removed within a few minutes and the mobile devices remain free from already used passcodes.
Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, PayPal, Evernote or any other site, two-factor authentication is used everywhere and you can enable it for ensuring a secure account.
Advantages of 2FA:
Two-factor Authentication has several advantages because of the easy procedure of configuration that it follows. Let us discuss them in detail.
- As already mentioned, it does not require you to have any additional stuff like USB stick and other tokens as it makes use of mobile devices that are with you throughout the day.
- Rather than fixed or static login details, dynamic passcodes become safe to use as they change every time you wish to log in.
- User friendliness of this method is simply remarkable.
- No one else can access your account because the passcode would be sent exclusively to your cell phone. In addition, the account would be locked on specifying incorrect information owing to which no intruder would be able to log in to your account.
- Passcodes are easily generated on the removal of older ones. A genuine code can always be received, thereby preventing issues arising in the transmission of the passcode or SMS reception.
Few Drawbacks of 2FA:
Two-factor authentication is like a double-edged sword. With the numerous advantages, there are some disadvantages also related to the procedure. These are mentioned below.
- It is necessary for the user to have the mobile phone with him all the time. It should be charged, activated SMS service, and cellular network should be active on the cell phone for successful authentication. Unless the message is received, the access cannot be possible.
- It is mandatory for the user to share his personal mobile number with the service provider and thus it reduces the user’s privacy and may put at risk to spam messages.
- Hackers can easily intercept text messages via MITM attack that are sent to mobile phones and the unauthorized agents could make use of the passcode.
- If the mobile phone is stolen, the user’s information becomes easily accessible and the thief can get easy access to all the accounts.
- Nowadays, technology has become so advanced that smart phones serve both the purposes of accessing email and text messages. The user is generally always stay logged into the email account. In case the phone is lost or stolen, all the accounts accessed with the help of the email can be hacked.
Vulnerability of 2FA:
Hacking has become quite rampant nowadays. If someone wants to hack 2FA, they have to gain access to the device used for login or get access to the cookies added in the device during the authentication. The hacker can do this by a phishing attack, malware or through a credit card reader skimming. Besides, account recovery is also a way to do so. It can overcome two-factor authentication and breaks the security. An organization with compromised security is more vulnerable to such attacks when passwords are not discarded from the databases. It is imperative that the authentication methods should be made impervious to hackers.
From above Pros and Cons of Two-factor Authentication we can easily say that it is truly a boon for individuals as well as organizations. It is quite evident that additional authentication factors will make the system more secure. Besides, the disadvantages, two factor authentication seem a beneficial for login purpose.