Two-factor authentication is the new security standard. It’s becoming increasingly simple for cybercriminals to find ways to hack into accounts using the standard username and password combination. By adding another step to the process, it becomes far more difficult for unauthorized users to get in and wreak havoc.
Given that multi-factor authentication is becoming a security standard, you might be wondering how to go about implementing such a solution. When you peruse a security provider like www.safenet-inc.com and explore the different options available, you’ll notice there are number of options, from security tokens to one-time PIN generators, all of which can better protect your vulnerable networks and data.
Before you make a decision, it’s important to understand the differences between the types of two factor authentication (2FA), and when to use them.
CAPTCHA codes, those random configurations of letters and numbers almost everyone has entered to access certain websites or services, are a simple form of multi-factor authentication. The primary purpose of these codes is to make sure an actual human is attempting to gain access, rather than a bot or program trying random username and password combinations. This is perhaps the simplest form of 2FA, and while it can keep some hackers out, it’s not sufficiently sophisticated for protecting sensitive data.
Two-factor authentication that employs a one-time use code is actually the “something you have” form of 2FA. Once you enter a username and password, you’ll be prompted to enter a one-time use code usually delivered via SMS text message to either a mobile phone or a security token. In some cases, the code is delivered via email or phone call. This method assumes whoever requests the code and receives it is the authorized user; if the mobile device or token has fallen into the wrong hands, it is possible the hacker could gain access just by requesting a code. However, most agree this method is largely effective, especially for confirming identity when there is an attempt to access a network from a new or unrecognized device or location.
Security Tokens and Smart Cards
Again meeting the “something you have” requirement for 2FA, a token or smart card is something you must insert or swipe in the machine in order to gain access. Combined with a username and password, this is a very effective means of securing your networks. In fact, almost everyone has a smart card in his or her wallet already: Your ATM card is a smart card, allowing you access to your bank account only if you have the correct password. The benefit to this type of 2FA is even if a token or card is lost or stolen, it’s useless without the other login credentials. That is why providing security tokens to employees who travel or work remotely is often recommended; even if a hacker intercepts the login credentials via an unsecured connection, they won’t be able to gain access to the network without having the token as well.
Biometrics replaces the “something you have” aspect of 2FA with “something you are.” This is perhaps the most secure form of authentication, as it relies on one’s individual characteristics, such as a fingerprint or eye scan, that cannot be replicated by anyone else. When a business is bound by compliance regulations, such as those in the financial and health care industries, biometrics offers an unparalleled level of security, limiting access to only authorized users. The drawback to this method, of course, is cost. Biometric authentication systems are more expensive than any other type to implement. However, with the growth in touch-screen technology and devices, biometric authentication is becoming more prevalent.
Because nearly every business can benefit from the security provided by two-factor authentication, there is currently unprecedented growth in the field. In fact, Authentication as a Service (AaaS) is an important part of the security landscape. Rather than attempt to implement their own 2FA solutions, companies contract with an AaaS provider to access the latest technology and advancements, enabling them to more effectively monitor and control access to their networks. In fact, given the relative ease of employing 2FA and the higher degree of security it provides, there is no reason any organization should not include it in their data protection protocols.