What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?

2FA adds an extra layer of security to online accounts by requiring you to verify your identity twice.

Why is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) important ?

During security breaches in 2020, 60% of victims had used the same password for many different accounts, making it easy for so many cyber attacks to occur.

Two-factor authentication has become more essential over the past few years, as it has been proven to be the most effective method to prevent such attacks. All you need to do is enable 2FA on all your accounts. 

The first method of identity verification is the most common one, your password. Then an added layer of protection comes in the form of verifying your phone number or using, for example, your unique fingerprint as a biometric identifying factor.

Once you combine your password with an extra layer of security protection, attackers will not be able to access your account, regardless if they have your password, as they won’t have website verification.

Therefore, it is invaluable to add two-factor authentications to all of your accounts, including social media accounts, and especially financial accounts such as PayPal where money is being transferred. 

Most two-step authentication systems utilize a unique once-off 2FA code with each attempt to login into an account. This specific authentication code is unique to your account only, and is generated by a token or sent directly to you via SMS.

This is known as a “per-call key,” which is a unique traffic encryption key generated automatically by specific telecommunication systems to send through data. 

Currently, one of the most modern, hassle-free, and secure two-factor authentication methods, comes in the form of an approval notification via a mobile app that is sent to your smartphone, or even your smartwatch. 

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Why is There a Need for Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is needed to protect personal accounts; passwords alone are not good enough. In fact, 27% of Americans guessed others’ passwords, and 17% of those succeeded.

Additionally, 4 in 10 Americans have been victims of personal data breaches. However, only 37% of Americans used two-factor authentication for their accounts in 2020.

Only half of Americans admit to the fact that they would, in fact, alter their passwords after being hacked, and 80% of hacking-related breaches happen because passwords are broken into. 

The industries that have been hit the hardest due to password security breaches are the healthcare industry (2020 gave rise to a $7.13 million data breach), legal and compliance industry, and the lowest hit data breach industries are the public sector, research, hospitality, and media industries.

How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

Multifactor authentication or MFA protects your login credentials by requiring two (or more) of the following independent authentication factors: knowledge, possession, inherence, and location factor. 

Two-factor authentication is the most popular form of multi-factor authentication which is used by big online services such as Gmail and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. 2FA is broken down into four authentication factors. 

The 4 Authentication Factors

  1. Knowledge Factor

A Knowledge Factor is a piece of information only you know. This includes a PIN code, personal questions, such as the name of your first pet, as well as swipe, tap, or knock patterns such as the ones you find on smartphone lock screens. 

  1. Possession Factor

A Possession Factor is something only you have. This includes a physical item such as a special identification card for easy swiping, that will give you access to secure areas like the office building you work at. 

This also includes a USB drive with a key that is encrypted to decrypt folders on a computer that may be protected. Currently, most possession factors are on your smartphones’ through their features and applications.    

  1. Inherence Factor (Biometric Factor)

An Inherence Factor is an authentication factor based on you, and your unique biological characteristics (biometric factor); it is also known as a biometric identifier.

It is a fairly new form of authentication factor that includes face recognition, fingerprint scans, voiceprints, and iris and retinal scans.

The only problem with this authentication factor is that it is easily repeatable once compromised, and many individuals object to being tracked in this highly futuristic way.  

  1. Location Factor

Location Factor authentication is not as popular as the rest, however, it is utilized to supplement other efforts of authentication. GPS-equipped devices locate users, as well as checking network routes.

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How Does a 2FA Token Work?

When you log into an account and enter a password, many sites and apps will ask you to send in the 2FA code that is sent to your mobile device. This is all done via a token that generates a random number for a very short period of time.

Once you have that code, i.e., the number that was generated through a token, you will have access to your account alongside your password (or PIN) and username.

How to Enable 2FA?

There are different ways of enabling 2FA depending on what app you are using, whether it be Google, Apple, or even your Microsoft account.

When you wish to enable 2FA Google, all that needs to be done is for you to open your Google Account, click “Security,” click on  Google 2 Step Verification under “Signing in to Google”, then click on “Get started,” and follow the instructions.

With regards to your Microsoft Account, simply click on “Security settings,” and sign in. Then click on “Set up two-step verification,” under “Two-step verification” to turn it on. The instructions are then simple to follow.  

Enable 2FA for your Apple ID by going to “Settings,” “[your name],” “Password and Security.” There, you will need to tap “Turn on Two-Factor Authentication,” and continue.

You will enter the number of the phone you want verification codes to be sent to, and continue by tapping next. Then enter the verification code in order to verify your phone number and turn on 2FA.

How to Turn Off Two-Factor Authentication

Employees must never turn off two-factor authentication as it can endanger the security chain of your entire organization.

Sensitive information such as user login credentials or account billing details can be greatly jeopardized if the added 2FA security layer has been disabled.

Two-factor authentication also protects employees from carelessness, such as losing their device or using public Wi-Fi to connect outside of the office.

Attackers can simply use your password security key to access private information.

Apple Two-Factor Authentication

Apple’s two-factor authentication works with two pieces of information you need to provide to gain access through your Apple ID account page.

When signing into devices for the first time, you’ll need your password and the 6 digit Apple ID verification code that is displayed on your device or sent to your phone. 

Once you are signed into your account, Apple won’t send you a verification code again unless you sign out, have to change the password, or no longer use the device. 

Authenticator App iPhone

“Authenticator” is a two-factor authentication iPhone app used to log into your iPhone Apple ID.

Once you finish setting up two-factor authentication on your iPhone, you can learn how to change trusted devices on iPhone, as well as how to change trusted phone numbers on iPhone.

With over 1 billion active iPhones in use, two-factor authentication is essential and was introduced by Apple in 2013. 

How to Turn Off Two-Factor Authentication on iPhone?

Turning off Two-factor authentication is not a good idea. It will make your account vulnerable to an attack as proper security measures are not in place, making your data easily accessible to anxious hackers.

Organizations must have strict policies so employees don’t turn off two-factor authentication on iPhones or other devices.

How to Set Up Google Authenticator

Google Authenticator is designed to be part of a two-factor authenticator app that makes authentication easy. All you need to do is tap the app on your smartphone, and a Google authenticator code is generated for a limited time period for you to utilize.

First, you need to set up your Google Authenticator app. Open your Google Account on your device, and click “Security” in the navigation panel. Then tap “2-step Verification” under “Signing in to Google.” Carry on by tapping “Set up” under “Authenticator app” in the “Add more second steps to verify it’s you” section. 

Then, once you have set up Google two-step verification, you will be able to receive Google verification codes. The other option is a Google Authenticator barcode which can be scanned.

Alternatively, you can also set up your account using a Google Authenticator key. In order to get this Google security key, you will need to click the “Can’t scan the barcode” link. 

Google Authenticator setup is one of the strongest security measures for Google 2FA and an added Google verification on top of your Google app password.

Gmail Security

Gmail is the most popular email service in the world; in fact, there are over 1.8 billion active Gmail users. Google has always taken their Gmail account security measures seriously and introduced Gmail 2 step verification in 2011, which requires a strong password.

Your Gmail application password must contain 12 characters or more, consisting of symbols, letters, and numbers. 

When signing into your Gmail account, it will direct you to a Gmail two-factor authentication. This works by asking you to open up the app on your cell phone. It will then ask “are you trying to sign into Gmail from another computer?”

Once you press “yes,” it will then ask for a biometric thumbprint identification. There is also a Google verification code for Gmail available, and Gmail password recovery via SMS.

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Google Authenticator Android

In order to get Google Authenticator working on your android, you will need to install the app from the Play Store. Once you open it for the first time, tap on “Get started.” The app will then ask you to create your first account.

Do this by either scanning a setup code or entering the setup key that is given to you on the settings page of the service. You will need to create 2FA for your Google account, and afterwards, the app will direct you to its home screen. 

Google Duo Sign In

Google Duo was launched in August, 2016, and is Google’s video chat mobile app. Once you have downloaded it onto your smartphone, it will take you to “preparing the next step.” 

Once you’ve agreed to terms and conditions, you need to give the app access to your contacts, microphone, and camera.

You will then be asked to verify your number and asked to enter the verification code sent to your mobile device. It gives you a limited amount of time to enter the code.

You can then create a group by tapping “message” to both record and send a video. Once you press “start” the group call begins.

Google Duo support offers FAQs, as well as the Google Duo Help Community in the form of more FAQs, and the opportunity to post your question in “Ask the Community.”

Facebook Authentication App

Around 2.85 billion monthly active users utilize Facebook’s social media platform. That’s a big number considering there are 7.9 billion people in the world. Recently, a staggering 533 million Facebook accounts were hacked, compromising a lot of private information. 

Although two-factor authentication Facebook was launched in 2011, Facebook login methods are now more stringent. Once you have enabled Facebook 2 step verification, and sign in, you will then be asked to enter your email and password.

After entering this information, you will then be sent a Facebook 2FA code to your mobile device. If you don’t receive it, you can ask for it to be resent, and you will receive your Facebook code in order to complete your Facebook authentication.

Twitter Login

Twitter was launched in March 2006. It is a social media platform used by over 186 million daily users including presidents, celebrities, and has had its fair share of security breaches.

For this reason, Twitter 2FA was launched in 2013. Once 2FA is enabled, your password will require an extra login method via a Twitter confirmation code, a verification process logging in through a Twitter authentication app, or using a physical security key.

You can also generate up to five active-backup codes but make sure you either take a screenshot or write them down in case you lose or change your mobile number.

For this reason, Twitter 2FA was launched in 2013. Once 2FA is enabled, your password will require an extra login method via a Twitter confirmation code, a verification process logging in through a Twitter authentication app or using a physical security key.

You can also generate up to five active-backup codes but make sure you either take a screenshot or write them down in case you lose or change your mobile number. 

2FA Providers

Okta

Okta is an ID-management service specially made for the cloud and widely used by many organizations. However, it is compatible with a multitude of on-premises apps. It enables the management of your employees’ access to any app or device.  

The many features that Okta provides are MFA, Provisioning, AD and LDAP integration, Single Sign-On (SSO), mobile identity management, the centralized de-provisioning of users, as well as flexible policies for security and control organization.

Duo

Duo is the perfect 2FA provider for IT and administrator teams of all sizes. It natively integrates with apps, in order to provide flexible security that’s user-friendly and provides easy management.

It has features that offer MFA, adaptive authentication, dynamic device trust, as well as secure single sign-on for each user and device.

Authy

The Authy desktop app offers easy-to-setup 2FA, and its features include passwords, TouchID, and PIN protection, in order to protect access to all your 2FA tokens.

It encrypts your two-factor authentication data and backup to its cloud, with no need for storing passwords. This popular authenticator app also operates offline by generating 2FA tokens straight on your device.

OTP App (One-Time Password)

OTP apps create one-time-only passwords that are valid for a short period of time, typically between 30-60 seconds before disappearing. This level of security makes it more difficult for attackers to steal your data. 

LastPass manages passwords and keeps them securely “hidden” in its virtual vault. You can also enable 2FA Lastpass for added protection for all your passwords. 

Dashlane is another secure password manager alternative and utilizes a digital wallet app accessible on Android, macOS, iOS, and Windows.

Next Level of Security Verification

Three-Factor Authentication (3FA)

Three-factor authentication utilizes three authentication factors, usually knowledge, possession, and inherence identity-confirming credentials. This is one level up from two-factor authentication and improves security greatly.

Biometric Two-Factor Authentication

The use of your fingerprint to verify a 32 character password is an example of using biometrics. Other examples are scanning of your iris, as well as voice and facial recognition.

Passwordless Authentication

Passwordless authentication allows you to log into your accounts without the use of a password or knowledge-based secret. For instance, your face or thumbprint can be used to log into your computer (such as with Microsoft’s Windows Hello).

This way, new solutions open up based on what is called the FIDO2 set of standards such as USB keys, badges, as well as wearables.

Duo Security

Duo offers a passwordless authentication service so that you no longer need to rely on passwords to log into your accounts.

Duo’s passwordless authentication mainly focuses on biometrics for identification, as traditional 2FA falls away.

No longer are you required to use a possession or knowledge factor to identify yourself. Duo security allows for easy configuration.

How Perimeter 81 Utilizes 2FA to Encrypt Data

Authentication technologies are used by many organizations to safeguard against threat agents. Two-factor authentication has become the standard for today’s interconnected workforce.

Organizations of all sizes have implemented security measures such as 2FA to protect their critical assets from potential breaches. 

Perimeter 81 utilizes the highest forms of authentication software  such as 256-bit AES bank-level encryption and 2FA to secure your data and reduce the attack surface.

Given the current rise of the WFH model, more organizations are shifting to a hybrid cloud strategy and along with that comes a growing need to Secure Remote Access for employees outside of company networks. 

Regardless of your corporate infrastructure, it is absolutely essential to use account authentication to stay one step ahead of malicious actors.

Highlighting The Benefits of Perimeter 81 for Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Enhanced Security: Two-factor authentication greatly enhances security by strengthening password and user authentication in a two-step process. Account activation is only confirmed after a user enters a numeric code typically sent out via SMS, thus drastically reducing the attack surface. 

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA): Organizations can benefit tremendously from a Zero trust approach or least privilege access, particularly to employees working remotely. Perimeter 81 offers a unified network security where IT admins can manage and segment network access and enforce stringent 2FA policies.

Minimize Attacks Using OTP: OTP or one-time password authentication provides unique passwords that can only be used for a single transaction or login session. OTP security tokens typically disappear and become invalid after a minute or less, making it increasingly difficult for attackers to bypass. 

2FA FAQs

What is 2FA and how does it work?
2FA stands for Two-Factor Authentication and it works by adding an extra layer of security to your online accounts.
What is an example of Two-Factor Authentication?
A verification code from Google where your password is the first factor and the code sent via SMS to your phone is the second factor.
What is an example of an authentication factor?
A good example would be a PIN which you use to withdraw money at an ATM or a biometric factor such as a fingerprint used to uniquely identify yourself in passports. 
How do I set up two-factor authentication or 2FA?
You will need to choose a strong password regardless of which system you choose to set up Two-Factor Authentication. Examples include Google, iPhone, etc. 

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