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What is Two Factor Authentication?

What is Two Factor Authentication?
Author: Kandeepan Ganesh, Desktop Technician

As data becomes more accessible, securing that information from unwanted users becomes top priority. One way of protecting data and preventing fraud is through the use of two factor authentication, or commonly abbreviated as 2FA. What is two factor authentication? It is an extra layer of security that is required once you enter your username and password.

What is Two Factor Authentication (2FA)?

To begin, 2FA isn’t a new concept. A common example of 2FA is the credit card, which requires two steps before a purchase is approved. First, you must provide the physical card, then, you must enter the personal identification number (PIN). From there, the transaction can be carried out. This method of security reduces the risk of credit card scams such as: ATM skimming, phishing, and fake credit cards.

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2FA in the Digital Age

Recently, 2FA has moved into the digital age. Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have started to implement this feature. The same idea applies to the digital world, whereas a second level of authentication is needed to access one’s account.

As defined in CNET, 2FA requires two of the following:

  1. Unique/Personal Knowledge: A password, PIN, or pattern.
  2. Physical object: Bank card, phone, or RSA token.
  3. Biometric identifier: Fingerprint, voice, or retina (not used as often but slowly becoming mainstream).  

With the popularity of cellphones, many websites started using 2FA as a method of verifying the user, with the use of SMS code verification. Similar to the credit card example, a second step is required to process the transaction. Upon entering your password on a site such as GMail, a numeric passcode is sent via SMS to your phone. When you click to approve, access is granted. As you can see this method of verification follows the two-factor rule, as it uses two of the three factors to identify you as a person.

With the increasing amount of cyber attacks, more and more companies will adopt two-factor to ensure that you’re the right user and add another layer of security.

For more info on security, visit the Geotab Security Center.

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