Two Factor Authentication, also known as two-step verification, dual-factor authentication, or 2FA is a security system that requires two distinct forms of identification to access something. In simple words, Two Factor Authentication strengthens access security by requiring two methods to verify the user’s identity. Two Factor Authentication provides a higher level of security and it is much more secure than single-factor authentication in which users provide only one factor i.e. typically, a password or passcode. Two-factor authentication uses a two-layer that is single-factor authentication in addition to a second factor, usually either a security token or a biometric factor i.e. fingerprint or facial scan.
Why is Two Factor Authentication (2FA) Important?
Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security to the authentication process. It makes it harder for attackers/hackers to gain access to a person’s devices or online accounts because knowing the victim’s password alone is not enough to pass the authentication check. In 2FA at least two of the following are necessary –
- Something you know i.e. your password
- Something you have i.e. such as a text with a code sent to your smartphone or other devices, or a smartphone authenticator app
- Something you are i.e. biometrics using your fingerprint, face, or retina
Different Forms Of Two Factor Authentication
Nowadays many online services offer two-factor authentication which enhances security. There are different types of authentication methods you can use. Some best of them are as follows-
- SMS Verification
- App-Generated Codes
- Physical Authentication Keys or Security Key
- App-Based Authentication
1. SMS Verification
What it is: It is the most common authentication method. In this method, a numerical code will be sent to your registered mobile number which then needs to be typed into the field provided. After the codes match, your identification is verified and access is granted.
How it works: In this authentication method, the password plays the role of first step authentication and numerical code aka OTP plays the role of second step authentication, and merging both two-step authentication works. A numerical code will be sent to the user’s registered mobile number which then needs to be typed by the user. It protects the user against someone randomly logging into his/her account. Without that numerical code, the password is useless.
2. App-Generated Codes
What it is: In this authentication method, numerical codes are used but codes are app generated instead of the code received on mobile number as SMS. Numerical codes need to be typed into the field provided. After the codes match, your identification is verified and access is granted.
How it works: To use this authentication, you need to download authentication apps like Google Authenticator, Authy, and Microsoft Authenticator. Before using the authenticator app, you need to set up two-step authentication in your account(e.g. Gmail, Facebook, etc.)and select authenticator as an alternative second-step authentication. After installing the app open the authenticator app and scan the code. Just like SMS Verification, a 6 digit numeric code will appear. Numerical codes need to be typed into the field provided. After the codes match, your identification is verified and access is granted.
This type of authentication is much more secure, as even someone who gains access to your phone number or intercepts your text messages won’t know your codes.
3. Physical Authentication Keys or Security Key
What it is: In this authentication method, the second factor is a hardware-based security key instead of digital code or numerical code. In this method, you should have a physical key that will connect to your device via NFC, USB, or Bluetooth. Whenever you want to log into your account, you’ll have to insert/connect the USB key and press a button on it.
How it works: When your account request second-step authentication after the first step authentication i.e. your password etc., then you need to insert your security key into your phone/PC. After that just press the button on the key to establish the connection. It is better than SMS verification and app-generated codes because they can not be intercepted. To open your account, the attacker should have your password and physical key, which is very unlikely.
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4. App-Based Authentication
What it is: There are many mobile apps that may provide two-factor authentication using the app itself. It means that the app was installed on your phone and you tried to log in account from another device. To continue, you just need to tap a button on your phone. For example Google apps.
How it works: In this authentication method, you should have an app that provides App-Based Authentication services like Google, Twitter, etc. As you logged in to your account from another device, a notification will appear and you just need to tap a button on your phone. After that, you can log in from another device.