Two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA or multi-factor authentication) is an important security tool for both businesses and individuals. It requires login verification from two devices rather than one, providing a powerful security boost. There are many 2FA apps available to download on your phone, such as Google Authenticator and Lastpass.

However, before you set up two-factor authentication on all your accounts (if you haven’t already), let’s take a look at:

  • What it is.
  • How it works.
  • Why it revolutionized online security.

So what exactly is two-factor authentication?

By using 2FA, you’re casting a powerful defensive net over your accounts that safeguards your data like never before. Suddenly, it takes more than a password to get past the login screen. Another form of identification is required, creating a roadblock for all but the sharpest cybercriminals.

To protect your devices with two-factor authentication, all you need is a combination of two of the following.

  • Something you know (aka a password or a pin number)
  • Something you have (usually a security code sent to your phone)
  • Something you are (obtained from unique identifiers such as the outline of your fingerprints, or the structure of your face)

Since there’s an extra step when you access your data with 2FA, it may take slightly longer to log in. But you can easily overcome that with our awesome fiber speeds of up to 940 Mbps!*

How can two-factor authentication benefit me or my business?

Business person using Google Authenticator at their business

With cybercrime running rampant, small business owners must constantly stay on the lookout for spear phishing attempts, ransomware attacks, and other dangerous schemes. Microsoft Authenticator and other such programs provide much-needed security to small businesses on the front lines of the cyber war!

Which two-factor authentication method is the most secure?

When going down the rabbit hole of 2FA, your first question is probably, “Which method will do the best job of keeping my data safe?” Biometric factors (aka “something you are”) are generally considered the most secure of all two-factor authentication methods.

Although the simplicity of text messages makes them appealing for many users, they’re actually considered the least secure method of two-factor authentication. In fact, some cybersecurity professionals don’t even consider them 2FA at all, but rather a type of “two-step verification.” But that’s not to say there isn’t a time and a place for text message verification. For example, it can be extremely convenient for a personal email account that isn’t linked to any financial data or sensitive information.

Now let’s take a look at some of the different ways you can set up 2FA, as well as the pros and cons of each one.

What are some ways I can use two-factor authentication?

Whether you’re using two-factor authentication to safeguard your personal accounts or setting up an impenetrable network for an entire organization, there are plenty of different 2FA methods to choose from. You should pick your digital armor based on:

  • Your personal security needs. If you’re an average internet user who rarely ventures beyond browsing Facebook, your needs will be very different from a business with 100 employees.
  • Your company policies. Do you have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy in place for your small business? If so, you’re going to need to educate all your employees on 2FA and provide the necessary tools.
  • Your budget. Not everyone has the budget for Office 365 with Microsoft Authenticator for business. So it’s important to consider all your options.

Here are some of the many ways you can leverage two-factor authentication for yourself or your business.

Text message alerts

Secure your text messages

Often hailed as the go-to method of two-factor authentication, just about everyone with a cell phone is familiar with this method. First, you input your username and password. Next, the site prompts you to enter a short code that arrives on your phone within seconds.

This basic method is usually solid enough to keep out amateur hackers. But if you’re dealing with highly-secure data we don’t recommend it.

Pros:

  • If you always carry your phone, this is a quick and easy way to verify your identity anytime, anywhere.
  • Most big-name email providers and websites already have this two-factor authentication method built in, so setup is minimal.
  • Since the verification code is delivered over the phone, you don’t need to worry about your internet crashing or slowing you down (but with our 99.9% reliability^, this usually wouldn’t be a factor anyway!)

Cons:

  • Not everyone carries their phone with them everywhere, or even owns a cell phone to begin with.
  • As we mentioned earlier, text messages can be intercepted. Therefore, text verification isn’t as secure as other 2FA methods.

Email alerts

This two-factor authentication method operates similarly to text alerts. However, since emails are sent over an internet connection (if you aren’t using mobile data to access them) this method can be slower and clunkier.

Pros:

  • Most people have their email accounts attached to their phones. So this is an easy-to-use alternative to text message verification.

Cons:

  • When using 2FA to protect an email address, you need a second email account.
  • Like text messages, emails are fairly easy to intercept without proper encryption.

Biometric factors

Business owners using facial recognition software to stay secure

2FA that runs on biometric factors such as facial recognition software and fingerprint readers are the best way to ensure your data stays secure.

Pros:

  • Facial recognition is nearly impossible to bypass. According to Apple, cybercriminals stand less than a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of bypassing their facial recognition software.
  • Simply pressing your finger against a button or holding a camera up to your face is easier than fumbling around for a code.

Cons:

Apps

Apps like Google Authenticator are a game-changer for both businesses and individuals. For example, Google Authenticator makes it easy to manage all your passwords and verification codes in one place. This simplifies life for both you and your employees if you run a business.

Pros:

Cons:

  • By securing all your account info in one place, if you lose your smartphone, you could be locked out for days.
  • If cybercriminals gain access to your company’s login credentials, they could hijack many accounts at once.

Two-factor authentication always has your back!

Now that you know about all the different two-factor authentication options out there, your opportunities are endless! It doesn’t matter if you want a bit of extra security when logging into your personal email, or if you have an entire business to defend. Either way, 2FA is a security must-have!

To speed things up when you’re logging in with Google Authenticator or your other 2FA method of choice, don’t forget to take advantage of our 99.9% reliability^ and speeds of up to 940 Mbps.* And for more cybersecurity tips, check out the Quantum Fiber blog!

*Based on network uptime or availability. Speed may not be available in your area.