two factor authentication

Two factor authentication is supposed to enhance your safety by validating your user credentials for online accounts. But in this digital age where hackers are becoming more and more imperceptible, are the efforts of 2FA enough to prevent attacks? If not, what else should be done to bolster protection for your personal and at-home devices? It might be a good starting point, but more can always be done to protect your accounts.

An Overview of Two Factor Authentication

2FA is a security system that verifies one’s identity through requiring multiple login credentials. As opposed to just asking for the username and password, it requires additional criteria to ensure that it’s you trying to retrieve sensitive data. 2FA can be generated through codes on smartphone apps, codes through emails or phone numbers, answering personal questions, or through biometrics. 

What are the Setbacks of 2FA?

Two-factor authentication might raise the barrier to account access, but that does not mean it is without its vulnerabilities. Some cybercriminals may avoid intercepting personal data if it’s 2FA encrypted, other hackers may see it as an opportunity to retrieve information, even if the process takes longer for them. There are numerous types of 2FA methods, each with its own set of weaknesses. Users who rely on this security system often use the most vulnerable options, and hackers have learned to bypass some of these systems. 

1- Email, Text, and call-based Codes

Email, text, and call-based codes are the most common method of two-factor authentication. But, they are in no way the most secure method. The method works by sending out a 5-10 digit code to the account holder through email, text, or automated call, and when the correct information is entered, it allows the person to access their account. This method remains the least secure method because it’s easy to intercept. Interception can look like the following

  • Hackers calling or texting and posing as trusted agents, asking you to confirm the password that was sent to you.
  • They may direct the user to an inauthentic spoof page that forwards the 2FA code to the hacker.
  • In the case where your email account was already hacked, hackers can go a step further and try to infiltrate your other accounts and profiles.
  • Hackers could impersonate you with the SIM swap attack. Using your information from any medium to impersonate you while at a carrier, and transfer this data to their devices. A cybercriminal would only go to this extent if this person was a high-profile figure or had large sums of money that could be stolen.

2- Authenticator Apps

Authenticator apps like Google Authenticator and Lastpass Authenticator have soared in popularity. The apps will generate one-time passwords that expire at quick intervals. If a user opts for this method, the account provider will ask for the current code displayed on the app in order to complete the login process. Many would agree that this method is touted as being very secure. It leaves little room for error, and the only way a hacker could get into your accounts is if they steal your phone and use the authenticator app.

3- Security Keys

RSA keys and YubiKeys are a physical security method completely independent of phones or online accounts. These keys are heralded as the most secure two-factor authentication maneuver for the public. But, since they are not always convenient, they will only be used every so often. However, anyone that wants to use security keys must commit to carrying them on their person at all times, or storing them in a secure place, only to be used when your accounts are accessed. 

Bolstering your Defenses with Two Factor Authentication

It’s the furthest thing from a perfect system, but two-factor authentication is still better than just using a password. Your first line of defense will always be a strong password. Rely on password managers for coming up with unique passwords. Remember, the more complicated it is, the less likely it is for someone to guess. Secondly, don’t just opt for the most secure 2FA method, even if you believe it is more convenient. It may not be necessary to use external hardware, but authenticator apps should be used whenever possible. Always do your research on what’s best for you and your business systems. 

RHYNO Networks will not only deliver on cutting edge IT solutions, but a huge part of our mission is to educate consumers on the best practices to employ, so that they remain safe and aware at all times. If you are in need of comprehensive IT support, contact us today!