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How Secure is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?

While we know that it may seem childish to use a password and a username combination, unfortunately, many people don’t learn the risks associated with this type of authentication until they have been victimized by cybercrime. And when that happens, two-factor authentication is one the best ways to protect your consumers’ sensitive data from theft.

Navanita Devi
Navanita Devi
May 13, 2021
4 min read

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Data breaches can have devastating consequences for both a user and the website. Several platforms turned to magic link or OTP (besides using a password) to counter these events and protect users’ online accounts.

Presently, many companies are using two-factor authentication (2FA) to ensure no unauthorized party has access. For example, recently, Google announced that they are planning to make two-factor authentication default for users, so more businesses are obligated to implement it.

However, despite this widespread popularity, experts question how secure 2FA is. But first, let’s understand what two-factor authentication is.

What is Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that requires consumers two factors to verify their digital identity. Meaning, it does not grant access if the user cannot produce the right username and password, both unique to the individual.

In addition to both these requirements, the multi-factor authentication process asks for an additional piece of information like Google Authenticator, Magic Link, or OTP to log in to an account.

An example of this authentication is the login process using Instagram. The first part of the process involves plugging in personal information like a password and username. After this comes the security code that is sent to the person through email or an SMS.

Several websites also use authenticator apps to generate unique codes. In fact, this method is one of the highest levels of security one will receive. This proves Google authenticator is safe.

How Does 2FA Work

The working process of 2FA differs depending on what kind of information is requested from the user. The login process can involve a combination of two variations given below:

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  • Data is already known to the individual, like login credentials. There are even apps to keep track of this information. For example, the Google Password Manager.
  • Data about one’s physical aspect like biometric data.
  • Data obtained from a possession like mobile phones will generate a confirmation code.

Businesses use two of these three requirements in conjunction with login details and phone numbers to protect a user.

Four Myths about 2FA - Busted!

The implementation of 2FA by various companies as the only security measure has been a source of concern. These experts claim that the concept of 2FA is misunderstood. Here are some common misconceptions about how secure is 2FA:

  1. It is not susceptible to common cyber threats.

2FA can be vulnerable to several attacks from hackers because a user can accidentally approve access to a request issued by a hacker without acknowledging it. This is because the user may not receive push notifications by the app notifying them of what is being approved. The codes are sent through unreliable third-party mediums. The safety of sending a code through an SMS message can depend on the mobile provider.

  1. The implementation of 2FA can be considered as a quick fix for a security breach.

A security breach can have lasting consequences on the reputation of a platform. This is because there are two negative outcomes. The first is one has to obtain a token or a cryptic password sent through text message. The sudden requirement of 2FA may lead to the user being unable to log in. If it is an optional logging method, most users will overlook how secure is 2FA and refrain from using it.

  1. Almost every 2FA solution is similar, with minor differences.

There has been a vast difference in how secure is 2FA since the development of the concept. The authentication can take place by issuing an SMS, a verification link in one’s email account, and through other means. There are even cases where the 2FA process takes place automatically through keying information stored on the browser.

  1. Most companies do not care about how secure is 2FA but see it as a legal requirement.

Smaller companies mostly do not spend a significant amount of revenue on security. They create a makeshift security policy and a loose usage of 2FA without understanding its security. Some companies view it as a hindrance to consumer experience since it requires a longer than usual login process.

When Faced With the Question, Is 2-Step Verification Safe?

The answer is a sure yes. However, it is not foolproof.

There should be additional measures to further prevent hackers from infiltrating the user’s accounts. Google offers a set of backup codes that should be kept in a safe place. These backup codes are used to log into Gmail accounts. Facebook and Apple also offer effective backup processes.

The LoginRadius Identity Platform provides two-factor Authentication as additional security for consumers. Once they enter their login credentials, an authentication code is sent to them for verification.

This concept of using several factors can drastically reduce the vulnerabilities of web applications and mobiles. After all, protecting consumer privacy is what matters the most.

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Navanita Devi

Navanita Devi

A content creator both by choice and profession with 7+ years of experience. A copy editor, SaaS-enthusiast, quick learner, adaptable, and a good researcher. When not at work, you will probably find her curled up in literature with happy endings!

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