Two-Factor Authentication: What is, How It Works, Significance

The majority of people nowadays utilise the internet on a regular basis. It has transformed communications, business, and everyday duties, to mention a few. While the Internet has practically revolutionised the world, it has not come without a cost. We expose ourselves to identity theft, fraud, data breaches, hackers, and a world that was once unimaginable now threatens our everyday operations.

The significance of online safety cannot be overstated. Vigilance and security are essential for keeping yourself, your information, and others safe. You put yourself at risk of being a victim of fraud, theft, and even property damage if you don't use internet security. Not to mention; the fact that even corporations are vulnerable. Hackers have regularly reported stealing data and breaching the security systems of high-profile firms in order to steal data and personal information, inflicting harm and financial chaos for the victims.

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Let's analyse why it's necessary to do everything you can to strengthen your online account security before answering the query "what is two-factor authentication" or "what is 2FA." It's no surprise that our digital accounts have become a magnet for fraudsters because we spend most of our time on our phones and laptops. Malicious assaults on governments, businesses, and individuals are becoming increasingly widespread. And there are no indicators that hacking, data breaches, or other types of cybercrime will slow down anytime soon!

Fortunately, two-factor authentication, often known as 2FA, is a simple way for organisations to add an extra layer of security to user accounts.

Two-Factor Authentication is an additional layer of protection that verifies that anyone attempting to access an online account are who they claim to be. The user must first provide their login and password. They will then be requested to submit another piece of information before they can receive access. This second element might belong to one of the following groups −

  • Something you know − A personal identification number (PIN), a password, answers to "secret questions," or a unique typing pattern might all be used.

  • Something you have − Typically, a user would have a credit card, a smartphone, or a tiny hardware token in their hands.

  • Something you are − This is a more complex category that might contain a fingerprint biometric pattern, an iris scan, or a voiceprint.

With 2FA, even if one of these criteria is compromised, the account will not be unlocked. Even if your password or phone is taken, the chances of someone else obtaining your second-factor information are little to none. From another perspective, if a user successfully implements 2FA, websites and applications will be more trusting in the user's identification and will unlock the account.

How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

Here are the steps in Two-Factor Authentication −

  • The user enters a username and password to access the software or website.

  • The identity service checks the user's credentials using an entry in the company's identity directory that was produced when the user opened an account or when an employee was onboarded.

  • If a second log-in step is necessary, such as a security token or their fingerprint, the identity service will prompt them.

  • The user will next supply the second component that is necessary.

  • The user is confirmed and granted access to the program after both criteria are entered.

There are several instances of two-factor authentication in operation, but keep in mind that two-factor authentication requires the use of two factors, not two credentials from the same category.

Consider the following example −

  • When withdrawing money from an ATM, the user must have their ATM card (possession or ownership component) and then input their PIN (knowledge factor).

  • A user-created password (knowledge) in conjunction with an authenticator (a token or smartphone) that the user owns and to which a one-time code has been delivered.

  • For smartphone apps, you may use your fingerprint to log in. The user first inputs their login and password (knowledge) before putting their fingerprint on the scanner (biometric factor).