What Is Two-Factor Authentication and Why Does it Matter? 

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It seems like every time you log in to an account nowadays, it asks for a code that’s been sent to your email or phone. This process is two-factor authentication (sometimes called multi-factor authentication) and it’s actually a very good thing. Those little codes work hard to increase your security

As a managed service provider, we’re here to guide you through multi-factor and two-factor authentication and explain how they add to the security of your accounts. 

What Is Authentication?

Authentication is the process of providing your identity to gain access to something. There are three factors:

  • Your knowledge: Whether that is a PIN, passphrase, password or answer to a security question, this is knowledge that only you have. 
  • Something in your possession: This is necessary for the authentication process, as you will need to provide a one-time passcode sent to your phone, insert a smartcard into a device or even provide a uniquely code generated by a physical token. 
  • Your self: Iris or retina scans, voice or facial recognition, fingerprints, heartbeats or gait are all considered biometric information. Some multi-factor or two-factor authentication methods use biometric information as another way to identify you as a verified user. While this may seem like something you would need only in a super secret lab in a movie, your smartphone likely uses your face or fingerprint to unlock or log in to apps on your phone. 

Single Factor Authentication Is Not Enough

Systems that rely solely on single-factor authentication, just a username and password, are no longer secure enough. Weak passwords, password-cracking tools, sensitive data leaks and breaches can easily break into single-factor login credentials. With just a username and password, it’s much easier for cybercriminals to hack into your sensitive accounts. 

The solution? Two-factor authentication of course!

What Is Two-Factor Authentication?

Single-factor authentication only requires your username and password. Two-factor authentication requires your username, password and one other way to identify yourself before allowing you into your account. This tool helps you protect your systems and sensitive data. 

Two-Factor Authentication’s Benefits

There are many benefits to using two-factor authentication, as it effectively prevents unauthorized access to your resources. Cybercriminals are prevented from accessing, destroying or stealing systems and data. 

Other benefits include:

  • Budget-friendly implementation.
  • Heightened cybersecurity.
  • Easy to use and manage.

Methods of Two-Factor Authentication 

Depending on your preferences and security needs there are multiple methods available for two-factor authentication including voice-based, SMS, email and more. 

Voice-based authentication asks users to confirm their identity through voice prompts. This method is quite risky nowadays thanks to the rise in deep fakes and voice cloning AI tools. 

One of the more common forms of two-factor authentication is SMS verification. Upon account creation, a one-time password is sent to the phone number you provided. The same technique is also used for emails. Attacks such as SIM jacking make the SMS verification method less secure. 

If you like the idea of a one-time password being sent to your phone, then an authenticator app is a good choice for you. Unlike an SMS confirmation, this OTP is encrypted. Just open the app and input the password.

The last method involves a hardware device that produces OTPs, called a hardware token. You must have the device on you to log in, which is secure as long as the device is not lost or stolen. 

What’s the Difference Between Multi and Two-Factor?

You may hear the terms multi-factor and two-factor authentication used interchangeably, however, there is a distinct difference between the two. The number of factors required to authenticate your identity. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires two or more factors, like an OTP and a face scan for example. MFA has now become a more popular way to say two-factor authentication (2FA), as that phrasing has fallen out of favor. 

If your company or organization requires higher-level security protocols, like those required for government agencies, financial services and healthcare, it may be best to increase security even more by using MFA. Two-factor authentication does provide that extra security layer, but organizations like these should invest in MFA. 

Implementation of Multi- and Two-Factor Authentication

Many security organizations and big companies such as Google and Microsoft repeatedly discuss the importance of using MFA and 2FA. However, if you are unsure how to implement these extra layers of security here are a few tips: 

  • Any MFA or 2FA method is better than nothing. 
  • Enable MFA or 2FA on all accounts. 
  • An authenticator app or hardware token is much more secure than text-based authentication.
  • Highly sensitive systems or accounts should use hardware tokens as their authentication method. 

Risks of Not Adopting Multi- or Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is arguably the easiest and least expensive way to increase your cybersecurity posture. Not having multi- or two-factor authentication exposes your company to a lot of significant risks like data breaches and other cyber threats. 

A lack of security is a gold mine for cybercriminals, and one of the first things cybercriminals look for is the absence of two-factor authentication. They exploit this lack of security to compromise employee accounts, which leads to financial loss, downtime, data theft, legal troubles and damage to the reputation of your company. 

While this may just seem like an issue only companies face, it also is something every individual has to contend with. Even if you think an account doesn’t hold sensitive, personal information it is always better to be safe with 2FA rather than sorry without it. 

Why They Matter

Incorporating multi and two-factor authentication into your cybersecurity procedures instantly and quickly adds that extra layer of security to your business. This mitigates risk by adding extra verification steps that would require a criminal to have access to other devices or accounts. When a would-be hacker runs into MFA or 2FA being used on a network, they typically will move on to an easier target. 

If you want to learn more about protecting your company from cyber threats or how to increase your cyber security book a meeting with us.



OrlanTech is a managed service provider (MSP) that was founded in 1995 and is now the market leader in delivering technology-as-a-service to small and medium size businesses (SMB) in the central Florida area.

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