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 important. In short it is an added layer of security for a users online accounts. It can help protect a user whose passwords might have been compromised, by requiring an extra step before it allows 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 number, 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 smart phones have pushed other possession factors out of favor. Lastly, the inherent factor, relates to bio-metrics. These could include, facial scans, retinal scans, voice prints, or fingerprints.

Is it secure?

Using 2FA or MFA is more secure then not using it. Combining more then 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 its not you, then you know that your password has been compromised. As a result you should change your password immediately.

Bio-metrics is becoming more popular as smart phone technology advances. Many phones will have a finger print scanner or facial scanner to unlock the device. However, bio-metric 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 loose their smart phones.

Should I use it?

The short answer is yes. While no system is perfect, as our lives become more digital based, added layers of security is important. A common objection is that it also will add an extra step to sign into 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 users 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 in an alternative email or phone number. This is for 2FA or MFA or account recovery.

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