Everything OTP

What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Everything You Need to Know

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Wondering what 2FA is, how it helps your business, and how to go about it implementing it for your application?

This article is for you.

By the end of the article, you’d know how 2FA authentication works and some of the best practices to follow in setting up 2FA.

Let’s get started.

With SMSCountry SMS API implementing 2FA using SMS OTP is easy and fast. Get simple & straightforward SMS pricing for your business.

No credit card required

What is 2FA?

a vector showing a man entering his password and verifying himself through a second mode

2FA  is a security process that uses two different forms of identification for verification. 

As passwords become more vulnerable, using just one mode of verification won’t secure your users. But introducing a second layer (2FA) makes it more difficult for hackers to compromise your users’ data.

To understand the concept, let’s take the example of the ATM. 

You need to have your card and PIN to withdraw money. Putting in the card will not dispense cash. 

The PIN is also pretty useless without your card. But, in conjunction, they create security for your account.

2FA authentication works the same way. You verify yourself through a second process after entering your password. 

Your password may be simple and can get broken by specialised software. But breaking the second layer will take work (if not impossible in most cases). 

2FA is a type of multifactor authentication (MFA). Why do you need an MFA like 2FA, and between MFA and Oauth, which should you use for your business?

Why do you need two-factor authentication (2FA)?

Here is why:

  • Humans (your users) have a bad recall, and many do not create strong passwords. A report on leaked passwords showed how hackers operate. They use ‘admin’ and ‘administrator’ to search for people’s passwords. 
  • Your users have too many accounts, and remembering each password is impossible. This leads to password recycling. All it takes is to break one password, and they have access to other data.
  • When data breaches occur, thousands of accounts get compromised. Hackers give away data on the dark web.
  • Hackers find new and innovative ways to steal your users’ information. They can manipulate them into divulging information or use offline methods. They can guess their passwords and even use dictionaries to find their passwords.

So, to put it in one sentence, 2FA help you secure your application.

Now that we know why you need 2FA let’s explore how it works.

Want to send fast and secure OTP to delight your customers on WhatsApp? Get our WhatsApp messaging solution Today!

How does 2FA work?

Vector depicting the 3 factors of two way authentication

With 2FA, you add an extra layer of security to your application

Your users don’t get instant access to their accounts after they enter their passwords. 

Instead, they need to provide an extra bit of verification. 

The kind of additional verification they provide is one of these three:

  • Knowledge: Something they already know. This includes username-password combination, PIN or CVV number.
  • Possession: Something they already own. A cell phone where they receive OTPs or verification codes, a phone app or an ID card will do for this.
  • Inherence: Something they already are, like biometric recognition, such as fingerprints, retina scans, and voice patterns.

2FA authentication uses a combination of the above to provide security. 

Here is how this works, in the case of a website:

  1. The website prompts the user to enter their login details. 
  2. They enter their username and password – the knowledge factor. 
  3. The website then prompts for the second step to complete the 2FA. 
  4. They get a prompt to enter the 2FA code from their cell phone. 
  5. They may get a prompt to scan their fingerprint, retina, etc. 
  6. They provide the required factors, get verified, and access the website.

For example, 2FA looks like this at the airport:

  • You present your passport at the airport counter for verification. 
  • The airport official uses facial recognition software or does a retina scan. 
  • The counter verifies you as the person travelling.

SMSCountry provides the best SMS API to send fast and secure OTPs to your customers.

Two-factor authentication best practices

Two-factor authentication best practices

Once you decide to implement two-factor authentication in your application, these best practices will help you make the most of it.

  • Enable 2FA for all users: Don’t provide 2FA for only a select group of users. Make it available for all users. 
  • Disallow weak passwords: Set up a minimum password requirement. For example, a minimum of 8 characters, with a mixture of numbers, alphabets and special characters.
  • Allow users to pick their authentication channel: Give your user the choice of more than two. For example, Google does this via text messages and an authentication app.
  • Keep the format consistent: To make your use experience consistent, use similar 2FA code formatting. For example, avoid adding spaces in 2FA codes across all channels.

Next, we examine some common 2FA myths and whether they are real.

3 myths of two-factor authentication 

Because implementing 2FA requires extra work. And because there’s ‘2’ written on it, you may have heard many assumptions about it.

Let’s look at three common ones.

Myth 1: 2FA requires two devices

It does not. One device is insufficient

This myth stems from the idea that 2FA becomes foolproof if done from two devices. For instance, entering your password via a laptop and using the phone to receive SMS. 

You don’t have to. 

You can do everything from one device.

Myth 2:  2FA diminishes the user experience

This idea stems from the perception that 2FA is a compliance rule and it doesn’t mitigate fraud risk. 

So you may be tempted to think two-factor authentication is an unnecessary step that makes it longer for users to access your application.

The truth is your users will love you more when they know you’re going the extra step to secure their privacy.

With the increase in cybercrimes, your users will appreciate anything that makes them feel safe using your platform.

Myth # 3 All 2FA authentication are the same and equal

They are not.

2FA technology has evolved since its first implementation. The earliest implementation relied on hardware tokens that people carried around. 

Since then, SMS authentication and phone calls have replaced hardware tokens. Also, some applications have tried using cryptographic information to authenticate their users.

And more.

Because you’re here, learn more about OTP.

Authenticate and verify quickly via OTP SMS

So there you have it.

Two-factor authentication helps you ensure your users that their data in your application is safe.

To provide your users with the best experience, you need an OTP service provider that is fast and reliable.

That is exactly what SMSCountry promise. 

Want to see how we’d help you implement 2FA using our fast, secure and scalable API?
Schedule a demo, and our team will contact you ASAP.

Frequently Asked Questions about 2FA

Does 2FA add a lot of security?

Two-factor authentication adds a layer of security. This makes it challenging for hackers to access online accounts and devices. Even if they get access to a password, they will need access to the 2FA authentication method to gain access.

Does 2FA have any limitations?

It is a reliable and effective system. Logging into a system is an extra step, adding time to the login process. It can be annoying for some users. It requires continuous maintenance and upkeep.

Is 2FA effective against phishing attacks?

2FA protects your account by providing you with two different forms of authentication. It helps protect your credentials. But if you decide to click on phishing links after verification, there is little 2FA can do for you. 

A better way to protect yourself from phishing is to educate yourself about it. Never give your information on unsecured sites, and change your passwords regularly. And don’t click on links out of curiosity.

Can hackers bypass 2FA?

Tech-savvy hackers will try and succeed in bypassing every security set-up in the world. So yes, it’s possible to bypass two-factor authentication also. They can do so by intercepting the communication as it happens. 
But all that said, it is safer to protect your account and enable 2FA than to leave your account unsecured. Unsecured accounts are easier to hack into as there is zero resistance.

Uroosa Kanwal

I thought my destiny was somewhere in the numbers! As I sat in front of the screen frantically coding in Oracle and Linux for my finals💻. Later, I gravitated towards financial roles and always imagined myself secluded in a room behind rolls of parchment ticking off numbers and taking inventory📜. That was back in 2012. Now I use all of these experiences to help you understand software tools, and the world of customer communication.

Write A Comment