You have probably seen our posts and other articles reference two-step authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA). However, you may not know what it does or why it is essential. In short, it is an added layer of security for a user’s online accounts. It protects a user whose passwords are compromised by requiring an extra step before allowing access to the account.

What is Two-Step/ Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-Factor authentication requires two or more of the three authorization factors to access an account. The first, the knowledge factor, includes passwords, pins, account numbers, or other information that the user should know. The second, the possession factor could be an ID card, encrypted USB, or phone. The rise of smartphones has pushed other possession factors out of favor. Lastly, the inherent factor relates to bio-metrics. These could include facial scans, retinal scans, voiceprints, or fingerprints.

Is it secure?

Using 2FA or MFA is more secure than not using it. Combining more than one factor to access your account will make it more secure. If your password was compromised, it is an added layer of protection. By having 2FA or MFA enabled, you will be alerted when someone tries to access your account. If you get a notification that someone is trying to access your account and not you, you know that your password has been compromised. As a result, you should change your password immediately.

Bio-metrics is becoming more popular as smartphone technology advances. Many phones will have a fingerprint scanner or facial scanner to unlock the device. However, biometric data could be easily replicated if compromised. Another potential problem with 2FA or MFA is if you do not have the device to verify the account, you could be locked out of the account. A common example is when people lose their smartphones.

Should I use it?

The short answer is yes. While no system is perfect, as our lives become more digital-based, added security layers are essential. A common objection is that it also will add an extra step to sign in to an account. While that is true, if you truly care about online security, it is worth it. More companies and services are using 2FA or MFA to secure their user’s accounts. Chances are you are already using it. Email, bank, tax, and many other online accounts are just an example. Typically, when setting up an online account, you will be asked to enter an alternative email or phone number. This is for 2FA or MFA or account recovery.

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