Today, security breaches and ransomware attacks are more prevalent than ever. With more professionals working remotely, organizations have increased security risks and need to better protect their IT infrastructure and data. Usernames and passwords can no longer keep intruders at bay. Passwords can frequently be brute-forced or compromised through phishing attacks or negligence and are not enough to protect critical systems and data. Many password reset mechanisms are insecure and are too often cached in applications such as web browsers and email clients, making identity theft easier.
Also, cybercriminals have become more sophisticated and are employing high-end tactics to get into your systems. One way to improve login security is to incorporate two-factor authentication (2FA).
What Is Two-Factor Authentication and How Does It Work?
2FA is a method of confirming user identity by utilizing something the users know (e.g., a password) and a second factor other than the password – something the users have or something they use, most often a mobile app or a token. Some well-known methods of implementing 2FA are:
- Mobile Application – If you are using an authenticator app on your verified mobile phone, you need to use the app to scan a dynamically generated QR code that shows up on the login screen of your system.
- Text Message – In this method, when you attempt to log in to a device, you are sent a text message to your mobile phone with a code, which you will be asked to input on the device screen.
- USB Key – Digital authentication keys are stored on USB drives, which when inserted into the device, allows you to log in securely.
What Are the Benefits of Two-Factor Authentication?
2FA imposes an extra layer of security that can significantly reduce the chances of hackers and unauthorized users exploiting lost or stolen login credentials and getting their hands on your data.
A few other benefits of implementing 2FA on your devices and applications are:
Saves time and reduces help desk costs
With 2FA in place, companies can reduce the time spent by help desk agents on resetting lost/forgotten credentials. Users can seamlessly and securely reset their own passwords without needing assistance.
Increases flexibility and mobility
If you have employees working remotely, who could potentially be using their personal devices, securing your network can be challenging. However, 2FA offers a vast improvement in the ability to properly identify requests for access. With 2FA, any suspicious unauthorized access can be identified and monitored, and attacks can be thwarted.
Many organizations are also subject to compliance regulations, such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that require them to implement 2FA to keep certain data private and secure. Not complying with these regulations can result in heavy penalties and fines.
How Effective Is Two-Factor Authentication?
Successful attacks on systems that use 2FA are rare. As per Microsoft, users that enable 2FA on their accounts end up blocking about 99.9 percent of automated attacks. The remaining 0.1 percent accounts for more sophisticated attacks that use tools to capture 2FA tokens. Such attacks usually originate from browsing on phishing websites, which can be avoided by educating users to distinguish a legitimate website from a phishing site.
A few best practices to adopt to stay away from fake sites are:
- Steer clear of websites that display incorrect company names
- Be wary of fishy pop-ups that ask for username and password
- Give a fake password if you are not sure of the website
- Use a web browser with anti-phishing detection
2FA doesn’t require installation of external hardware devices and is easy to implement on a large number of devices at once. While 2FA is extremely effective, it’s just one of many methods you should use to secure your IT systems. A few other ways to protect your IT infrastructure and data can be found in the eBook “5 Ways to Improve the Security of Your Business.”