It is only a matter of time before we enter an age where the use of fingerprint and face-scanning technologies to access data is commonplace. But for the time being, we mainly use passwords to log into our multiple accounts. That’s why two-factor authentication (2FA) has become (and remains) so vital to our cybersecurity.
But, what is 2FA? Two-factor authentication (which is a subset of multifactor authentication) is a way for a user to verify their claimed identity by utilizing a combination of two of any of the following three factors: 1) something they have, 2) something they know or 3) something they are. As such, 2FA provides a second line of defense against the theft of one’s most sensitive digital information.
Why We Need 2FA
As reports of massive data hacks have increased in frequency (and magnitude) over the past several years, it is clear that using a single password to protect our most sensitive accounts has become insufficient, if not wholly obsolete. If hackers either guess your password or bogart a database that contains your login information in plain text, then your account information is ripe for the picking.
Two-factor authentication works toward resolving these vulnerabilities by requiring a secondary code, usually, six characters in length (the “something you have”) before you can access your account. In other words, when 2FA is implemented, even a hacker who has your password will still have to crack the secondary code to access your data, which further impedes their efforts.
However, 2FA isn’t infallible. For example, if you decide to receive your 2FA codes by SMS, hackers can theoretically intercept them. For this reason, it’s preferable that you use a hardware- or software-based solution on a device that you own.
What does 2FA look like?
Standard ways for cybersecurity companies to provide secondary login codes are via the use of smartphone apps or security “tokens.” Here are profiles of some of the most reputable 2FA providers (SecurAccess, RSA SecurID, SecureAuth IdP and Symantec VIP).
The following handful of 2FA solutions support mobile tokens and provide flexible authentication methods. Note that any service that supports the standard 2FA approach (including most mainstream websites and services) should accommodate these 2FA applications.
- Developed by SecurEnvoy, SecurAccess is a token-less 2FA system that employs remote access. SecurAccess is especially useful for businesses that manage remote teams. No matter what the size, any enterprise can utilize this system since it can service up to 100,000 users per hour. SecurAccess can send passcodes to any mobile phone without SMS delivery delays. Their tech also allows a business to expand its list of users beyond its employees to include customers and third parties.
- RSA is one of the most well-known 2FA providers. Companies in a range of industries — from banks to law firms to online poker rooms — have incorporated RSA tokens into their security strategies. Its RSA Authentication Manager (commonly known as “SecurID”) is a 2FA tool that businesses can use to securely access applications, regardless of whether they’re located in the cloud or installed on-site. RSA’s system also offers a wide array of hardware and software tokens that can be installed as additional authentication tools. SecurID supports all basic mobile operating platforms (i.e., iOS, Android, BlackBerry and the Windows Phone) and can transmit passcodes via email, push notifications and SMS.
- SecureAuth IdP is a cloud-based solution that is a suitable tool for both large and medium-sized companies seeking to significantly increase their network security due to their use of a range of SaaS services. SecureAuth IdP offers its customers various 2FA options, including USB keys, smart cards and biometrics. Its client companies can also generate one-time passwords via email, SMS or a phone call. Furthermore, while conventional login processes merely involved entering a login and a password at the initial stage, SecureAuth IdP enables administrators to customize the order in which the system requests sensitive data from the user. All the foregoing features offer businesses increased flexibility in establishing their authentication parameters.
Choosing among various 2FA solutions can be a daunting (and tricky) task. However, there are a few broad guidelines that might assist in your decision. If your business uses various SaaS-based applications, then SecureAuth IdP could be your best option. If your company has to frequently provide third-party organizations with limited access to your network resources, then SecurAccess could be an appropriate choice. If your business mainly requires on-premise solutions, then SecurID could be your optimal choice. If your company is seeking fraud detection and advanced reporting capabilities, then you might consider Symantec VIP. In any case, be sure to do your research, check your price points and get consumer reviews of each option before making a final decision.