What is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a security measure that requires users to provide two separate forms of identification to access their accounts. This method increases the level of account security by adding an additional layer of protection beyond just a username and password.
In the era of rising cybercrime, it has become evident that traditional security systems, relying solely on passwords, are often not sufficient to fend off modern threats. Not only do businesses suffer from data breaches, causing financial and reputational damage, but individuals also become victims of identity theft, with their personal information used to secure fraudulent credit cards or drain their bank accounts. In 2016, a staggering $16 billion was taken from 15.4 million U.S. consumers due to such cybercrimes.
Despite passwords' vulnerability, they remain the most common form of user authentication. However, humans tend to have poor memories, often resorting to simplistic and easily crackable passwords, such as "123456" or "password." Furthermore, with an increase in the number of online accounts, users often reuse passwords, making multiple accounts vulnerable if one is compromised.
Why is Two-factor Authentication Important?
There four major reasons why two-factor authentication (2FA) is crucial for in modern times.
2FA provides an additional layer of security beyond just a username and password. By requiring a second factor of authentication, it becomes significantly harder for potential intruders to gain access to your accounts. Even if they successfully guess or steal your password, they would still need the second factor — typically something you physically possess, such as a mobile device — to access your account. This drastically reduces the chances of successful phishing, brute-force attacks, credential exploitation, and other security threats.
Zero Trust Security Model
The principle of zero trust security is to "never trust, always verify." This means no user or system is trusted by default, regardless of whether they're inside or outside of the network perimeter. 2FA is a cornerstone of this model as it helps confirm the identity of the user before granting access to sensitive data.
Protection Against Same-Channel Vulnerabilities
If both your password and second factor of authentication are delivered over the same channel, a remote attacker could steal both pieces of information. But with 2FA implemented correctly, your second factor is sent via a separate channel, known as out-of-band authentication. For example, you might receive a push notification on your mobile device. This approach protects against attackers who might have tapped into your primary network or Internet connection.
Physical Device Requirement
2FA often requires a physical device like your mobile phone or a hardware token to confirm your identity. This requirement ensures that even if your password is compromised, an attacker would need the specific physical device to gain access. As remote attackers don't have this device, it significantly mitigates the risk of unauthorized access to applications containing corporate networks, cloud storage, financial information, etc.
By implementing 2FA, even if a password is compromised or a phone is lost, the probability of an attacker also having the second factor of authentication is significantly reduced. Hence, 2FA provides a much-needed additional layer of security, enabling websites and apps to be more confident about a user's identity and therefore protecting user data more effectively.
How does 2FA work technically?
Two-factor authentication (2FA) primarily involves two out of these five factors you mentioned for verifying a user's identity. This dual-factor method considerably enhances the security of a user's account. Let's delve deeper into each of these factors and how they technically operate:
This is the most common form of authentication and involves something that the user knows. In the digital realm, it usually takes the form of a password or a PIN. During the authentication process, the user-provided password is compared against the stored hashed or encrypted password. If the comparison is successful, the user is granted access.
This authentication factor is something that the user has. It could be a physical or a virtual item. A physical item might be a hardware token or an ATM card, whereas a virtual item might include a software token or a one-time password (OTP) sent via email or SMS. In the case of OTPs, these are generated on the server-side and sent to the user. The user then inputs this OTP into the application, and the server verifies it against the generated OTP. With hardware tokens, the server and the token stay in sync via a shared secret and an algorithm that generates codes based on the current time.
This factor utilizes unique personal attributes, such as biometrics. Biometric authentication can include fingerprints, facial recognition, voice recognition, iris scans, or even behavioral aspects like typing speed. These biometric markers are stored as data models, and when a user attempts to authenticate, the system compares the live sample with the stored model. If there's a match, the user is authenticated.
This is an indirect method of authentication. It doesn't necessarily authenticate the user but adds a layer of protection by tracking the geographical location of the user. This is typically done by checking the user's IP address and comparing it to known locations. If a login attempt is made from an unfamiliar location, it may trigger additional security checks or alerts.
Like the location factor, this is also a secondary form of authentication. It monitors the timing of a user's actions, like their regular login times. If a login attempt occurs outside of the typical time frame, the system may flag it as suspicious and require additional verification.
Implementing multi-factor authentication that uses two or more of these factors can significantly enhance the security of user accounts. This is because it is more difficult for an attacker to compromise more than one of these factors simultaneously.
How to Set Up 2FA?
Here is a complete list for all the two-factor authentication on the most popular platforms. While it is not necessary to set up 2SV for every account you have with Google and Microsoft, it is highly recommended to enable it for your high-value and sensitive accounts, such as your primary email, financial services, and social media accounts.
Set Up 2FA with Google
- Open your Google Account: Go to your Google Account by visiting myaccount.google.com.
- Navigate to Security: In the navigation panel on the left side, select "Security."
- Enable 2-Step Verification: Under the "Signing in to Google" section, select "2-Step Verification" and then click on "Get started."
- Choose a verification method: Google recommends using Google prompts, which are push notifications sent to your trusted devices. This method is convenient and provides additional protection against phone number-based attacks. Alternatively, you can choose other methods like using Google Authenticator or other verification code apps, receiving verification codes via text message or call, or using backup codes.
- Complete the setup: Depending on the verification method you choose, follow the instructions to complete the setup. This may include linking your phone, installing the Google Authenticator app, or entering verification codes.
Google allows you to add multiple verification methods for increased security or as backups. You can set up security keys or print/download backup codes. Skip the second step on trusted devices: For convenience, you can check the box that says "Don't ask again on this computer" or "Don't ask again on this device" if you want to skip the second verification step on trusted devices. Only do this on devices you regularly use and don't share with others.
Set Up 2FA with Microsoft
- Go to the Security basics page: Visit the Security basics page (account.microsoft.com/security) and sign in with your Microsoft account.
- Access More security options: Select "More security options" from the available options on the page.
- Set up or turn off two-step verification: Under the "Two-step verification" section, choose "Set up two-step verification" to enable it, or select "Turn off two-step verification" to disable it.
- Scan the QR code (if setting up): As part of the setup process, you may be given a QR code to scan with your device. This step helps verify that you are in physical possession of the device to which you are installing the Authenticator app.
- Reset your password with two-step verification: If you forget your password while two-step verification is enabled, you can reset your password. Ensure that you have provided alternate contact email addresses or phone numbers during the initial setup. Follow the steps outlined in the Microsoft support documentation on how to reset your Microsoft account password.
Some apps or devices may not support regular security codes. In such cases, you may need to generate app passwords. App passwords are available only if you have two-step verification enabled. If you encounter an "incorrect password" error on an app or device after enabling two-step verification, refer to Microsoft's support documentation on how to create and use app passwords.
Set Up 2FA with Apple
1. Turn on two-factor authentication:
- On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch: Go to Settings > your name > Password & Security. Tap Turn On Two-Factor Authentication. Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.
- On your Mac: Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click your name (or Apple ID). Click Password & Security. Next to Two-Factor Authentication, click Turn On and follow the onscreen instructions.
- On the web: Go to appleid.apple.com, sign in with your Apple ID, answer security questions, tap Continue, and follow the prompts.
2. Sign in on a new device: When signing in with your Apple ID on a new device or the web, a notification will be sent to your trusted devices. Review the notification and tap Allow if it's you, or Don't Allow if it's not.
3. Verify your identity: Enter the verification code received on your trusted device to confirm your trust in the new device. You may also be asked to enter a passcode to access encrypted content in iCloud.
4. Trusted device not available: If you don't have a trusted device with you, tap "Didn't Get a Code" on the sign-in screen. Choose to send a verification code to one of your trusted phone numbers or get a code from Settings on a trusted device.
Apps for Two-factor Authentication
Set up Google Authenticator on Android
Google Authenticator is a widely used and trusted app for two-factor authentication (2FA). It generates time-based one-time passwords (TOTP) that provide an additional layer of security to your Google accounts. While it excels in protecting sign-ins to Google services, it is not limited to Google accounts alone. You can use the Google Authenticator app for third-party apps and services that support TOTP codes. It is available for free on iOS and Android platforms and is a convenient and reliable option for securing your online accounts.
- Install Google Authenticator: On your Android device, go to your Google Account settings. Tap the Security tab, and under "You can add more sign-in options," select Authenticator. If prompted, sign in to your Google Account and tap "Set up authenticator." Install the Google Authenticator app from the Google Play Store.
- Set up Authenticator: Open the Google Authenticator app on your device and tap "Get Started." Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup process. This will associate the app with your Google Account.
- Generate verification codes: Once set up, the Google Authenticator app will display a list of codes, each corresponding to a specific account. Open the app whenever you need a verification code. The codes are generated locally on your device and do not require an internet connection or mobile service.
With Google Authenticator version 6.0 on Android or 4.0 on iOS, you have the option to keep your verification codes synchronized across all your devices by signing in to your Google Account within the app. This allows you to access your codes on multiple devices seamlessly.
If you want to transfer your Google Authenticator codes to a new phone, ensure that you have the latest version of the app installed on your old device. In the old device's Google Authenticator app, tap More, then Transfer accounts, and Export accounts. Select the accounts you want to transfer and generate a QR code. On your new phone, install the Google Authenticator app, open it, and tap "Get Started." Choose the option to import existing accounts and scan the QR code from your old device. This will transfer your Authenticator accounts to your new device.
Set Up 2FA on iPhone:
Setting up 2-step verification on your iPhone Apple ID is simple and won’t take long. Take the following steps:
- Navigate to the Settings menu, then to Password & Security.
- Select Turn On Two Factor Authentication.
- Press the Continue button.
- Enter the phone number to which you want verification codes sent when you sign in. You have the option of receiving the codes via text message or automated phone call.
- Select Next.
- Finally, input the verification code to confirm your phone number and enable two-factor authentication.
That’s all there is to it. You can now enjoy enhanced security on your iPhone. We recommend that you keep the list of trusted phone numbers up to date and that you physically secure your devices.
Is Third-party Apps Needed for 2FA?
While Google Authenticator is a popular choice, there are instances where a third-party 2FA app can be advantageous. Third-party apps like Authy offer cross-platform compatibility, allowing you to use the same app across different devices, including iOS, Android, and desktop. They also provide backup and sync features, enabling you to restore your 2FA configurations on a new device or in case of device loss. Multi-device support is another benefit, allowing you to access your 2FA codes on authorized devices. Additionally, some third-party apps offer enhanced security features like biometric authentication and account recovery options. These reasons make a third-party app valuable for 2FA, providing flexibility, convenience, and added security beyond what Google Authenticator alone can offer.
Use Textr to Manage Your Business Safely
Now that you’ve secured your iPhone against attacks, it’s time to use it to grow your business and connect with your team, no matter where they are! Whether you are a startup, a freelancer, or a small business, Textr allows you to collaborate with your team on a single platform.
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Additionally, you can set up multiple numbers for your business and share identities with your staff for smoother operations. Even better, you can install it on multiple devices and send everything from your web browser.
Textr provides a free tool for sending text messages to any mobile or wireless phone number in the United States and Canada.
Finally, with unlimited calls, customer tagging, SMS campaigns, and endless other features, Textr is worthy of your investment and consideration. Try it out today!
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