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What Is Two-Factor Authentication?

Updated: Feb 22

Two-factor authentication (2FA) has been shown to be the single most important step you can take to ensure that you and only you have access to your online communication. While no security measure is 100 percent unbreakable, 2FA is presently the best method to lock down access to your important accounts.

As the name suggests, 2FA adds an extra security layer to your accounts across the internet. 2FA means your account requires information beyond username and password to confirm you are who you say you are before accessing the account. The “second factor” comes in after you enter your username and password, which is considered to be the “first factor.” 2FA is used to confirm your identity by asking for an extra piece of information. The additional information can be:

  • Something you know, like an additional passcode.

  • Something you have, like your phone to receive a one-time authorization code.

  • Something you are, like a fingerprint or voice print.

How Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) Works

Logging into your account with a username and password is a standard login

procedure. However, these details can get lost, stolen, guessed, or teased out of you with some clever social engineering. 2FA adds another test for unauthorized visitors who have somehow acquired your standard login credentials. 2FA is most commonly used in consumer apps and is either a SMS code sent to your phone, or a code generated by a dedicated authenticator app.

When you are setting up 2FA, you are asked to prove that you are the owner of your phone and the associated cell number. That gives you the authorization to generate and receive codes. Unless hackers get access to your phone, as well your email address and password, they will not be able to log in.

biometric two-factor authentication for secure access

There has been an uptick in the use of biometric information, like a fingerprint or facial recognition, as the second authentication step. These biometric features should make 2FA even more secure and convenient in the future, provided the technology continues to evolve. Adding 2FA is a quick and simple process most of the time, and there is really no excuse not to set it up if you have the option. Just remember that it should be used as part of your overall security hygiene, not in isolated instances.

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