You probably didn’t realize it, but two-factor authentication is actually a very normal part of life. If you are an average American, you probably participate in two-factor authentication almost every day. Two-factor authentication is a security process that involves two stages of verification to verify the identity of a person or an entity before they gain access to a secured network or database. The verification process includes two of the three authentication factors: knowledge, possession, and inherence.
Although it doesn’t sound very average, you participate in two-factor authentication every time you swipe your debit card and enter your pin. This is a simple form of two-factor authentication. You present your debit card, which is a possession factor, and you enter your pin card, which is a knowledge factor. The two-factor and multi-factor security processes were developed for the US government and are now also used for monetary transactions and access to internet networks. You’ve probably come across them in various social media networks and online bank accounts.
Using two stages of verification makes it more difficult for hackers to hack into databases that contain secure information. Since hackers and hacker computers are getting smarter and smarter it’s best to use some variation of a two-factor authentication process to secure your databases. The two stages of verification in the authentication must be two of the following three authentication factors:
This factor is something only the user knows. This factor is most widely used and usually consists of something like a saved password, a PIN (personal identification number), pattern identification, CAPTCHA, or a saved question. Many networks just use two knowledge factors to secure their users’ accounts. This doesn’t count as two-factor authentication. In order to make your network or database more secure you should use a knowledge factor with one of the other two factors: possession or inherence.
This factor is something only the user has. This factor must be some type of physical object that the user has in their possession. This factor can be a key, a key card, a credit card, a debit card, a loyalty card, an ID card, a gift card, or even a phone or email that receives an automatically generated code. Google uses the possession factor for its second verification step for users who want to secure their accounts. Whenever a user tries to log in to a new computer, a new code is sent to their cell phone. After entering the code from their phone, the user can choose to save the code or get rid of it. If the computer is secure or private, the user can save the code and not worry about getting another code for that computer. If the computer is more public and the user wants to protect their account, the user can choose to have the login be a one-time thing. After entering the code, the user can use their google account without any more interference.
This factor is something only the user is. This factor isn’t used as often as the other two because it requires something biologically connected to the user. This factor regularly uses things like a fingerprint, a voiceprint, or an iris scan for verification. Various cell phone companies have begun using fingerprint recognition or voiceprint recognition to secure their users’ cell phones.
It may seem strange that people would go to so much effort to keep things secure online. But the security of the internet is actually a huge issue that various databases are dealing with right now. It’s getting more and more difficult to keep things secure online because hackers and computers are getting smarter. If two-factor authentication is provided on any of the networks you use, make sure you use it. And if you have the opportunity to provide it for your customers, go ahead and make their web experience more secure and safe by employing two-factor authentication.