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From shopping to banking to social media, humans increasingly rely on online services. Everything that once required a physical effort can now be accomplished by simply tapping on a 5-inch screen while sitting comfortably at home. With this growing reliance comes a need for better online security — something that can assure online data protection.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) are two ways to add an extra layer of protection to online accounts. These methods are quite popular among tech companies and other sectors that rely on the internet.
2FA is a system that requires two pieces of information in order to log in to an account. A registered password and security code are the most common types of 2FA used by almost every smartphone manufacturer. MFA is a similar system but requires more than two pieces of information. For example, the user may be asked for a password, a security code, and a fingerprint to log in.
2FA and MFA are effective ways to protect online accounts from hackers. So, if users are not using either security measure, now is the time to start!
Both methods help confirm a user’s identity using two or more independent components. These components can include a text, name, code, or something only the user knows. However, MFA is a type of 2FA, and the key difference between the two is that MFA requires more than one factor to confirm a user’s identity.
So, why should one care about 2FA and MFA? Because online security is important, and 2FA and MFA are two of the best ways to protect online accounts.
What is 2-factor authorization?
It is an additional layer of protection that can be used to protect accounts on websites, internet portals, mobile applications, and more. When 2FA is enabled, one must provide a username, password, and the second piece of information, such as a PIN or code from a security token.
2FA is a great way to protect online accounts from being hacked. It strengthens the security of accounts, making it difficult for hackers to gain access or steal credentials.
Because every piece of information is linked to the next one, it is extremely difficult to bypass the credential order. However, if somehow a hacker gets access to the username and password, they will also need a security token to log in.
Organizations and individual creators should definitely consider two-factor authentication because it is a widely used authentication system for increasing online security.
What is multi-factor authentication?
To access an internet-based application, an online account, or a cloud storage account, the user must first submit two or more verification factors, followed by a third one. This leverage of user information is known as multi-factor authentication (MFA).
MFA demands one or more verification elements in addition to a username and password, which lessens the possibility of a successful cyberattack. A strong identity and access management (IAM) policy must include MFA as a fundamental element in an organization’s structure because it not only protects the employee’s accounts but also protects the proprietary data from falling into the third-parties hand.
With multiple security checks, hackers are bound to retrieve from the accounts since MFA also notifies users when a third party tries to log in to their accounts. A good MFA example is how Google accounts work on smartphone and desktop computers, as both require an authentication method to allow the current user to log in to the account.
How do 2FA & MFA work?
2FA and MFA function by requesting extra verification data (factors) from the centralized systems of a device/operating system. One-time passwords (OTP) are among the MFA components that consumers come across most frequently. Users frequently receive OTPs through 4–8-digit codes by email, SMS, or a mobile app. With OTPs, a new code is produced regularly or after an authentication request is made. The seed value given to the user at registration and another factor—an increased counter or a time value—are used to produce the code.
For example, the content management system (CMS) WordPress uses a plethora of 2FA and MF2 methods that protect websites from unauthorized access. By setting up these authentication methods, the admin can confirm that only a few eligible users can access the website’s backend, and no other user can see or access the internal components of the website. It can also take the form of a push notification that the user must confirm before allowing the account to access the data.
Why do organizations care about 2FA & MFA?
The fundamental advantage of 2FA and MFA is that they increase an organization’s security tenfold, requiring users to authenticate more than the standard login and password procedures. Although crucial, usernames and passwords can be stolen by threat actors and are subject to brute-force attacks. A company would feel more confident and secure from cybercriminals if it uses 2FA and MFA features such as a physical hardware key or biometric identification.
Sources claim that over 15 billion stolen credentials are available to cybercriminals. If they use someone’s credentials to infiltrate a corporation, they might be able to access the bank accounts, health records, trade secrets, and more to steal the financial assets of their targets.
Multi-factor authentication plays a crucial role here since it makes it difficult for the common criminal to steal information. The less alluring a data set is, the more likely threat actors will choose a different victim.
Moreover, 2FA and MFA combine at least two different components, as its name suggests. One of these is often a username and password, which a user must always be aware of. The second is a phone, keycard, or USB that would verify one’s identity.
Adding this extra security measure to login and password ensures privacy at all levels. It may also contain fingerprints, iris scans, and other biometric information to confirm the user’s identity. And setting it up is surprisingly simple for most folks.
How to set up 2FA & MFA?
While two-factor authentication (2FA), whether done through text, email, or an authenticator app, does not entirely protect from possible hackers, it is a crucial step in preventing unauthorized users from accessing online accounts. MFA is the next version of 2FA and is equally promising in protecting the devices, accounts, and data stored in offline and online modes.
Here’s how to enable 2FA and MFA on popular operating systems and devices.
The procedure for enabling 2FA and MFA can vary depending on the iOS versions. However, it is more or less the same in terms of how it works. For starters, here is how to turn on 2FA/MFA on iOS 10.3 and later.
- Open the smartphone and go to Settings.
- Go to iCloud > Apple ID and select “Password & Security.
- Now, click on Two-Factor Authentication.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the 2FA process.
Like iOS, Apple’s computer operating system, macOS uses different 2FA/MFA procedures depending upon the OS version. For users using Catalina or later, here is how to set up 2FA and MFA on macOS.
- Turn on the Mac and click on the Apple icon.
- On the next screen, click on System Preferences.
- Now, select iCloud > Account details and then click on security.
- On the next screen, turn on the 2FA option.
Google is probably one of the biggest cross-platform ecosystems for digital devices. The Windows operating system works on Windows PC, macOS, iOS, Linux, Android, and countless operating systems and devices.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to enable 2FA and MFA on devices registered with Google.
- Firstly, visit the Google 2FA landing page from a web browser.
- On the next screen, log in to Google and select the preferred device.
- After that, click on the Get Started button.
- Google will send a text message to the device.
- Follow the on-screen instructions from there to verify the code.
- Follow the subsequent instructions and complete the 2FA/MFA process.