Two-Factor Authentication: An invaluable addition to Account Security

Humans are predictable. Sometimes, so are their passwords. Anyone who has known or observed you can predict the passwords you’re likely to use.


Take a moment and think, what password do you currently have? Does it not involve your name, pet name, or the name of a loved one, coupled with a birth date and united by an elegant special character? The nod simply means your user account is vulnerable to a cyber attack more than you may think.


You’ll need a dual-factor authentication, like validating your identity with a one-time password (OTP) on your phone, push notification, security token, and others in addition to standard password systems.


When you work in an organisation, the need for two-factor authentication rises exponentially, as a single compromised account can put the organisation’s cybersecurity at risk.

Understanding two-factor authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication is the process of confirming one’s identity through two different challenges, using something you already know, have, or contain.


In two-factor authentication, one test can be to fill in the username and password. The next challenge can be to verify the identity by tapping on a push notification, entering an OTP shared via email, text message, phone call, or other channels. Some organisations carry two-factor authentication using the security keys, following the FIDO U2F guidelines.


2FA helps you address vulnerabilities of a standard password-only approach of authentication and makes it more secure. It helps you keep your accounts safe by enclosing them within two security layers, where it gets tricky to log in unless the identity is verified.


Why do you need two-factor authentication?

Cyber attackers have the technological expertise to test billions of password combinations in a short period. Considering the evolving threat landscape, passwords are no longer self-sufficient to defend your user account from unauthorised access. Brute force attacks or social engineering attempts stage a consistent threat to penetrate your accounts and benefit from your sensitive information.


Two-factor authentication keeps attackers at bay, even when they've successfully penetrated through elements of your single factor authentication: username and password. Since the second factor is generally something you have, it’s difficult for a cybercriminal to lay their hands on it, resulting in better account protection.


Common authentication factors

You can pair traditional passwords with various authentication factors: a knowledge factor, a possession factor, inherent factor or time, and location factor. When you couple authentication factors together with standard passwords, it empowers your systems to protect user credentials in a better way.

The authentication factors listed below keep user accounts secure and protected from intrusions. Organisations of diverse dimensions can stack more authentication factors if they need to actualize astronomical protection of user accounts.


Different categories of authentication factors:

Knowledge factor: It’s a shared secret that you already know and can use to validate your identity. It can be a password, personal identification number (pin), or any other information which rests solely in your care.

Possession factor: It’s an entity that you have. It can be a security token, an identity card, or a digital device to approve authentication requests.

Inherent factor: These factors associate themselves with the user’s physical presence and verify them with biometric, facial, or voice recognition challenges.

Time factor: It controls user logins based on time. If the login is within set time boundaries, it’s permitted, otherwise not.

Location factor: It interrogates the user's trusted devices for location. Only if the login attempt is made from a predefined location, is it allowed.