Two-Factor Authentication: Security for Your Valuable Data

Two-factor authentication is an extra step that one takes when logging in to various sites and programs. It happens after the username and password have been entered. I know what you’re thinking, passwords are difficult enough. However, many times. in order to make it convenient to remember, we use the same password for nearly all websites (which I would never recommend) or we make simple passwords that are easily guessed, i.e. password, password 123. What two-factor authentication does is add an extra layer of security on top of those passwords, no matter how simple or complex they are, in order to further protect your information online.

A quick and easy way to describe two-factor authentication is to think of when you call your bank’s customer service.  Generally, in addition to providing your name and account number, you are also asked some sort of security question and/or your social security number. Thus, because you are required not only to know the account number, but also the social security number associated, this method is considered two-factor. Conversely, single-factor authentication is when you log in to your email, iTunes account, online banking, etc. and you only have to enter your username and password.

Let’s get down to what two-factor authentication is. Two-factor authentication requires a user to have two out of three types of credentials in order to access an account. These three types are:

  • Something that you know; a password, Personal Identification Number (PIN), or a pattern
  • Something physical that you possess; an ATM card, your phone, or a fob
  • Something that you are; your fingerprint, voice print or other biometrics

Many companies have begun to implement this technology into their systems, including Apple, Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Many of these companies only require you to have your cellphone in order to receive a text message in order to verify your identity after entering your password. Other companies may require a device such as a fob (which are similar in size to key fobs, but instead contain a screen which selects a series of random numbers, paired with whatever access point you are seeking to gain entry), which will generally run in the $30 range.

Finally, why you should use two-factor authentication? Simply put, this second level of authentication helps to ensure to safety of your data. It may require an extra step, but two of the three forms of authentication require you to have something you carry with you nearly all of the time, which is a low burden when compared to the high price you’ll pay if your data security is compromised. Since this item is something that is physical and linked to you, even if someone else has your username and password, they still can’t access your biometrics or your cellphone. So in conclusion, always be sure that your passwords are strong and differ, and consider using two-factor to help strengthen the security of all of your valuable data. Of course, Rent-A-Nerd, Inc. (504-454-6373) can help business owners set this up company-wide and individuals set this up for their personal data.