The frightening headlines about data breaches and identity theft just keep coming, so any tools or methods that can help your small business protect itself from these dangerous occurrences should be carefully considered. One simple cybersecurity method that your trusted IT Support partner will tell you to quickly and easily implement on your IT devices, online accounts, and networks is called Two-Factor Authentication or 2FA.
What is 2FA?
Two-Factor Authentication, also referred to as two-step verification or dual factor authentication, is an effective security process where the user must provide two different authentication factors to verify their identity before they can access a device, online account, or network. This method provides a higher level of security than the typical use of single-factor authentication, usually a password or passcode. This additional layer of security comes through the necessity for a user to provide two authentication factors to gain access.
Examples of 2FA Authentication Factors
Cyber experts explain that there are multiple types of authentication factors used in 2FA as described below:
- A knowledge factor or something you know (e.g., a password or passcode)
- A possession factor or something you have (e.g., mobile device, hardware token, FOB, or an ID security card)
- An inherence factor or something you are (e.g., your fingerprints, retina scan, facial recognition, or other biometric inputs)
Less widely used authentication factors include:
- A location factor, where access will only be allowed to specific devices in a particular area. Programs are available, which can quickly track the geographic source of an authentication attempt based on a source IP address or through accessing the user’s GPS data on their device. Any attempted access from a non-specified or questionable location would not be allowed.
- A time factor, which restricts user access to a designated time frame, making it more difficult for an overseas hacker to attempt to gain access to your company’s network.
2FA normally uses two of the first three authentication factors above to enable the user to gain access. The most common example is when a user enters their password and then a text code is immediately sent to their cell phone or mobile device. The user must then input this one-time code, which is also time-sensitive, to gain access to their device, an online account, or a work network. Another example that employees frequently use is a combination of the use of a FOB or security card with their password or fingerprints, etc.
Some high-security organizations utilize even more complicated multi-factor authentication, which requires three or more authentication factors.
Drawbacks of 2FA
The drawbacks of 2FA are that it makes accessing your IT assets, online accounts, and networks a little more difficult and takes additional time during the login process. With the use of FOBs and security cards, it also becomes necessary for employees and companies to maintain secure possession of these items and control their distribution. However, most small businesses would consider these minor inconveniences worthwhile if 2FA can help prevent a costly and destructive data breach. A quick look at past and recent headlines provides a stark reminder of the damage cybercriminals can do to your small business.
Why is it Necessary?
As we have detailed in past blog posts, the weakest link for any organization’s cybersecurity efforts is through their employees. Cybercriminals will always be developing new ways to try to manipulate and exploit human emotions and take advantage of poor internet and email behavior.
Cybercriminals have increasingly become more skilled at overcoming single-factor authentication defenses like passwords/passcodes making 2FA a more pressing need. Hackers use different devious methods to obtain this sensitive information, such as logically guessing a user’s password/passcode through repetitive login efforts. These bad actors have programs that will bombard systems with login attempts based on typical employee passwords. These applications utilize their knowledge of an employee’s background that they find on publicly available sites (e.g., birth dates, children’s names, street addresses, pet names, etc.) for this dark purpose. Cybercriminals have also launched ever more clever phishing campaigns where they pretend to be a trusted financial organization or client or even a work superior and then gain sensitive login information from a deceived employee.
One important thing your company should always remember is that cybercriminals are hoping your business and employees will not practice smart internet and email behavior. By using 2FA, your company will put up another significant obstacle for a hacker to overcome, which is usually enough to send them looking elsewhere for easier prey.
Ask Your Trusted IT Support Partner for Assistance
As with most cybersecurity and IT-related matters, your small company should carefully consult with a reliable IT Support partner, like Network Depot, who has the experience in utilizing 2FA as part of a multi-tiered and complementary approach to cybersecurity. These experts will be able to quickly assess your company’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities and offer recommendations on how to best address them.
Your IT MSP partner will help your company select, install, and utilize the best 2FA measures and other cybersecurity defenses to keep your small business well-protected. With the help of your IT partner, your small business will be confident in its defenses against cyberattacks and will be able to maintain focus on your efforts to achieve your unique objectives.