As most people, you are used to logging into your online accounts with usernames and simple passwords without giving it much extra thought. However, the so-called 1-factor authentication is not enough these days as it’s vulnerable to leaks and is often hacked.
That's why multi-factor authentication (MFA) is absolutely vital to protect your most important accounts. The most popular form of multi-factor authentication is the two factor authentication, also known as 2FA.
Multi-factor authentication is an authentication process that requires at least two pieces of different information from you. There are three factors:
The knowledge factor is what most people are familiar with. Some examples of knowledge factors include passwords, patterns and PIN. The knowledge factor is almost always used as a factor in the authentication of multiple factors.
The possession factor means something you have. Nowadays this is usually done with an application on your smartphone, but in businesses, this is usually replaced by something like a smart card.
The biometric factor is something that you are. This is the newest factor and does not have a very broad user base, but it is slowly gaining popularity. Biometric factors include the use of face recognition, fingerprint scans and speech recognition.
An easy way to remember the different factors is:
Something you know
Something you have
Something you are
Why should I go to the hassle to set up multi-factor authentication?
It can be difficult to configure multi-factor authentication, but the additional security layer that you add on is priceless. If you have a single factor login process, once that piece of information is compromised, the associated account can be easily hacked. The credentials of the account have been stolen and will continue to be stolen, so it is important that you add an additional layer of protection since the login information is no longer the only point of failure. We would like to present some statistics to show how cybercrime is increasing and attacks on users' devices, especially smartphones, are easier than ever.
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is the most common form of multi-factor authentication available. Many of the larger services allow you to take advantage of this additional security. Some examples of services that allow 2FA includes Steam, Google and Blizzard.net.
Many cryptocurrency portfolios also allow you to configure two-factor authentication to access your currencies. You can use applications such as Authy or hardware wallets like Nano Ledger S or Trezor.
Not all 2FAs are the same
While 2FA is safe in general, the methods in each factor are safer than others. This is mainly the SMS 2FA. SMS 2FA is no longer secure and may lead to your account being compromised. If someone is determined to enter your account, intercepting an SMS is not impossible.
Using a dedicated application or a physical device is the best option when it comes to 2FA, if a service is not offering this, your best option is to avoid that service.
The future of multi-factor authentication
The biometrics will become a much more used factor in MFA, this is mainly due to the improvement in the technologies surrounding the recognition of patterns, as well as the ability to reduce this hardware to small phones.
Apple, Samsung and Google all have fingerprint scanners on their phones, just to name a few. Apple has gone so far as to include a face recognition feature on the brand new iPhone X. This implementation has shown that biometric data is not always the safest since the ID face had been fooled by a face printed in 3D.
Many people also do not feel comfortable with their biometric data being stored online, but it seems to be becoming less viable over time.
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