We’ve entered an age where security is more important than ever – particularly in the world of business. Each year, the average cost of a data breach rises to record highs with no end in sight. Cyber attacks are becoming more common with each passing day. In an era where the stakes are this high, techniques like two-factor authentication are among the best chances you have of keeping your digital information away from prying eyes.
Two-factor authentication is gaining popularity quickly for good reasons. This technology makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to accounts, thus providing business owners with more security and peace of mind. In addition, two-factor authentication is inexpensive and easy to use.
Before you begin to use two-factor authentication for your own business, however, there are a few key things you should know and consider.
What is Two-Factor Authentication?
Also commonly referred to as 2FA, two-factor authentication is a technique that many of us are probably familiar with, but most of us probably haven’t used in a business sense.
Two-factor authentication is a form of identity verification that requires the user to prove his or her identity in two different ways when logging into an account. In most cases, one factor is the user’s password and the other is a physical object, such as a specific computer, mobile phone or token.
When two-factor authentication is enabled for a particular account, a digital code is sent to either an email address, a phone in the form of an SMS text message or through other means. Instead of only requiring a username and password to log in, the account will also require the user to input that unique digital code – which is randomly generated and expires after a short period of time.
Without two-factor authentication, a hacker with a username and a password has 100% of the information they need to log into a particular account. Without physical access to a separate device in order to get the digital code, however, they suddenly can’t advance – even with data as private as a password. This is why 2FA is so valuable – it increases security by an enormous amount by adding a physical component alongside a digital one.
Why is it Important?
Two-factor authentication makes it more difficult for malicious individuals to access accounts that don’t belong to them. In today’s world, hacking tactics are highly effective, and complicated usernames and passwords just aren’t enough protection anymore. Some of the benefits of two-factor authentication include:
- Better security – Perhaps the most obvious benefit of two-factor authentication is better security for your company, your employees, and your customers. With this technology, the chances of a hacker breaking into your system are much lower.
- More peace of mind – Knowing that your accounts and data are well-protected provides you with peace of mind, allowing you to worry less and focus more energy on other tasks.
- Cost effectiveness – Two-factor authentication is not expensive or difficult to implement, making it a cost-effective choice for improving a business’s cybersecurity position.
- Protection for your business – Nothing ruins your business’s reputation quite as quickly as a security breach. If a breach compromises your customers’ data, you have to inform them and take steps to protect them from harm. Not only is this costly, but it can also cause you to lose business. Two-factor authentication makes these breaches much less likely, which reduces the chances of this potentially embarrassing situation.
- Guarantee of employee involvement – Implementing two-factor authentication in the workplace necessitates employee buy-in, thus ensuring that every employee’s account is protected. When two-factor authentication is required, employees MUST use something for their second factor in order to log in. This means that even employees with weak passwords or a propensity to share passwords will still have a reasonable amount of account security (however you still might want to address that issue).
Two-Factor Authentication is Annoying… Which is a Very Good Thing
Because of the benefits of two-factor authentication, as well as the ever-increasing threat of security breaches, two-factor authentication is highly recommended for both businesses and individuals. Some people complain that two-factor authentication is more cumbersome than simply inputting a password. However, this is a small price to pay for extra security. Even though it may take you a little more time to log into your accounts, hackers will have exponentially less success when they try to break in illegally.
One of the major reasons why more people aren’t using two-factor authentication right now is because it is a fairly irritating method of security. The process of signing into an account takes significantly longer when you have to use two different devices, and that’s the point. The chances of a hacker gaining access to your password are pretty high nowadays, but getting your password AND access to your smartphone to input a code from an SMS text message or app on your phone are much, much lower.
Keep in mind, however, that this is very much for your benefit. An “annoyingly secure” process for you becomes an “infuriatingly secure” process for a hacker or someone else who wants to do you harm. Plus, every second that you can delay the process of logging in is a second you have to stop a potential problem before it becomes a much larger and more severe one moving forward.
Why Traditional Authentication is Outdated
In the early days of the Internet, passwords didn’t just work – they worked well. Then, two unfortunate things happened at the same time – traditional authentication became outdated and people started to become complacent. People no longer saw the need to come up with unique passwords for each account, as “secure passwords” with multiple special characters and case sensitivity became too difficult to remember.
But what happens when one of your accounts is compromised? Every other account that uses the same password falls like a house of cards. With two-factor authentication, on the other hand, this isn’t something that you have to worry about.
When you consider the fact that passwords now protect more than just email – in business, they could give someone unauthorized access to your entire server with client records, intellectual property and more – something needed to step up and replace traditional authentication for all time. Two-factor authentication is absolutely that new technique and if you’re not using it, you need to start today.
In today’s digital world, it’s important to think of cybersecurity as a race that will never be finished. Whenever a new breakthrough hits the market designed to make systems more secure, hackers and other people with malicious intentions get to work trying to find a way to circumnavigate it.
This cat-and-mouse game is one that you’ll never officially win, but you should always make an effort to stay in the lead as much as possible. In many ways, two-factor authentication is designed to help you do exactly that.
Modern Day 2FA and Apple Pay
A perfect example of two-factor authentication in practice, look no further than Apple Pay. Thanks to the unique way that it uses two-factor authentication (as the “physical access” component takes the form of your thumbprint), it is actually the most secure form of payment currently operating anywhere in the world today. Even if someone were to have your username, your password and physical access to your device, so long as they can’t replicate your thumbprint in some way, they’re entirely out of luck.
Gmail does the same. Whenever you log in to your Google account after a long period of time or from a different device than usual, Google sends you a text or phone call with a code for your login. It might seem unnecessary, but it hardens the security of your account. Isn’t that extra step worth it?
- Two-factor authentication dramatically increases security by requiring multiple touch points to log into an account.
- Two-factor authentication offers several benefits that make it a good tool for businesses, including better security, better peace of mind, more employee involvement and cost effectiveness.
- Traditional authentication is far too outdated to rely on in 2017 and beyond.
The Future of Security is Here
We’ve officially reached the point where passwords alone are no longer secure enough to offer us the type of protections we need to combat the serious digital threats we now face. Security techniques like two-factor authentication go a long way towards closing that gap, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Two-factor authentication must be implemented for enterprise users as well as on personal devices to help cut off the access of the people who wish to do you harm wherever and whenever you can.
Want to further secure your company’s files beyond two-factor authentication? Moving your company to the cloud not only increases security, but can enable you and your employees to work from multiple locations. Do you want to learn more about creating more efficiency in your company using cloud solutions? Check out our blog for more articles, resources pages for premium content, or simply contact us today to learn more about the services ITG offers.