This article was contributed by Dustin B. Cisneros from RackNerd. If you are looking for a new VPS or web hosting service, be sure to check out RackNerd’s latest LowEndBox specials!
In this article, we will be talking about a more generic and broad topic that is important to all of us internet users, whether it be related to LowEndBoxes or otherwise. Inspired by a surge in digital security threats and vulnerabilities on the Internet recently, in this topic we will talk about 2-Factor Authentication, and tell you all about it and why you should use it for your online accounts (such as your e-mail accounts).
What is 2-Factor authentication?
2FA is a form of multi-factor authentication; it makes use of two factors of different types to authenticate a user. The first factor could be a password, while the second factor can differ and include things such as a one-time password that you receive on your mobile phone.
The majority of websites and applications now use 2-Factor authentication. You might already have used 2FA in the form of biometric verification, where only your fingerprint, along with a password, can authenticate your identity.
There are different ways in which 2FA is implemented. The most common way is that you provide your password as the first factor. The website server then verifies the given password with the stored encrypted password – and if it matches, it takes you to the second factor. In the second step, you are sent a one-time password or a PIN to your stored phone number. You would only be able to access your account when you enter that OTP or PIN.
Other second authentication factors can include the use of email, smartphone apps, biometric verification, and even physical devices such as RFID cards and tokens.
Why is 2-Factor authentication important?
Nowadays, using only a single layer of protection, such as a password, is not secure enough. There are numerous ways in which a password can be stolen or cracked.
With the increase in computing power, brute force attacks are getting more frequent. Moreover, what makes it all worse is the use of weak and short passwords. Passwords such as “password123” are still commonly used, even though they can be easily cracked or even guessed.
The problem with only using a password is that it is difficult to remember a strong password. Therefore, people tend to use easy and memorable passwords. Additionally, passwords are also potentially exposed to threats such as keylogging and data recovery of old storage drives.
Thus, the use of 2-Factor authentication provides a safety net for your online accounts. Even if the attacker has your password, your account will remain secure as long as they don’t have access to the second factor. That is why the second factor is something that only you have access to, such as a mobile phone or an RFID key.
However, devices such as mobile phones and keys can also be stolen; thus, in high-security environments, the use of 3FA (3-Factor Authentication) has started. 3FA can include a password, an OTP, and biometric verification used together.