Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is one of the best and most accessible ways to keep your online accounts secure. Passwords and passcodes provide very little deterrence to modern hackers, especially since so many people use the same password, or variations of the same password, on multiple accounts. More than 80% of people ages 13-80 reuse the same password across different applications. If just one of these applications gets breached, all of the affected users’ accounts with a similar password are compromised.
As we develop better and better computing, single-factor authentication will soon be completely obsolete. Even the best passcode generator cannot compete against a supercomputer tasked with hacking into a given account. Thankfully, multi-factor authentication provides an additional layer of defense that prevents a malicious actor from accessing your accounts with just a passcode.
There are three kinds of authentication you can give to access an application.
- Information known only to you, like a passcode or PIN
- A device known to be accessible only by you, like a phone or physical key
- A physical feature unique to you, like a fingerprint or iris scan
It is now common practice for companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple to send a “verification code” via text when you log into your account. Login can only be successfully completed once you have entered your passcode and the one-time code that was texted to you.
But this method of two-factor verification has its flaws, and some cybersecurity experts would not even consider it to be multi-factor authentication. A one-time code sent via text can be easily intercepted by an experienced hacker. A far more secure method of authentication via phone is to use an app that generates a Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP). This authentication code will no longer be valid after a matter of minutes, so if it is discovered, it is useless to a hacker.
While many would argue that the best MFA requires a fingerprint, facial recognition, or iris scan, that’s simply not feasible in every application. For now. With fingerprint scanning and high-quality cameras already common features of most smartphones, that could very soon change.
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Most applications that handle sensitive information, from Apple and Microsoft to your online banking and healthcare portals, have an “opt-in” option for two-factor verification via a text message. Some also have the option to use a TOTP generating app for two-factor authentication. We always recommend opting into MFA where possible and keeping that info up-to-date, especially if it involves a company account that may change hands as new hires come in. While it may seem silly to opt-in to MFA on accounts that don’t contain any personal or financial information, it’s still a good idea, especially if you use the same password or variations of that password in multiple places.
It is hard to beat the Google Authenticator app when it comes to ease of use. Simply open the app, scan the QR code of the application you are authenticating, and enter the TOTP code that appears. One of the first authentication apps on the market, it’s stayed true to its original simplicity and reliability, and it takes almost no time at all to add a significant layer of security to your sensitive accounts.
End-users are one of the biggest targets for hackers, especially now that remote work is so commonplace. In addition to MFA, there are simple stakes you and your business can take to reduce the likelihood of an endpoint security breach. Learn more about endpoint security and work-from-home cybersecurity by consulting your Digital Agent.
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