Two Factor Authentication Saves the Day

Two Factor Authentication

The biggest security innovation of the 20th century is, without question, the password. The creation of a unique phrase, or string of numbers required to access data created a whole new era in computer security, and helped keep things like personal files and email safe at the dawn of the Internet age. And now we’re learning about another interesting concept — two factor authorization.

In the years since the creation of the password, the password has not aged well. Malware and hackers have evolved to the point where even the most sophisticated password database is not secure. Companies like LinkedIn, Sony and Yahoo have all been victims of password theft, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

But there is something that many consumers can do to keep their online information safe: enable two factor authorization. If you have never heard of the term before, it’s a fairly simple concept, and understanding what it is, how it works, and how you can use it to keep your information safe is a great way to become a better informed web user.

How Does Two Factor Authentication Work?

Like the name implies, two factor authentication requires two separate “keys” for users to gain entry to a specific service. One of these keys is something static that you remember, like a traditional password. The other is something that you physically have, like a smartphone or email address.

When you are trying to access your content using dual factor authentication, you will be prompted to put in the password that you remember like you would do normally. Once the password has been verified, the “what you have” portion of this authentication method kicks in. A unique code will be automatically generated, and sent to your smartphone or email address. Once you have this code, you can use it as a secondary password to gain access to the data or account you were looking to retrieve.

Though it may seem cumbersome to retrieve a new code every time you want to access information, it also makes it very difficult for hackers and data thieves to access your data as well. Though it isn’t impossible for highly skilled hackers to generate these codes, it is almost impossible for them to pull user passwords and unique codes within the five-minute login window that most two factor authentication services give users to log in.

It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as absolute Internet security, but two factor authentication provides as much security as users are likely to need to keep their content as safe as possible.

How Do I Use Two Factor Authentication in Everyday Life?

By default, most websites use password-style authentication. Though it is not the most secure, it is the most familiar, and until two factor authentication becomes the standard, this is likely to remain unchanged. However, most websites allow users to go into a settings page and then enable dual-factor authentication. For instance, both Twitter and Facebook allow you to enable this feature through their account settings & security menus, according to tech site Gizmodo.

When you set up dual-factor authentication, you will need to enter either a phone number or an email address where you can recieve unique codes. Though it may seem initially uncomfortable entering your phone number, most websites have a privacy policy that states that phone numbers stored for authentication purposes can not be used for spam or commercial purposes.

Other websites and services that support this type of authentication include Apple, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft. Most banking websites, like Ally, Chase, Capital One, MasterCard and Wells Fargo also support two factor authentication. If you are not sure if a web site or service supports advanced authentication, you can generally check out the security and/or privacy policy on their website in order to learn more about the website. If the website doesn’t support this advanced encryption, you may want to look for alternative websites that will provide you with the same or similar content.

Though simple password encryption has been the security method of choice for the past century of data storage, today’s world of advanced threats means a greater form of security is required. Two factor authentication may not be the standard yet, but the method is praised by both security experts as well as consumers. Though entering a password and a code may take some getting used to, enabling this feature should give users some peace of mind, as creating two barriers for hackers and data thieves to push through is a very effective deterrent with a high success rate in security simulation environments.