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Multi-factor Authentication: Its Uses and Security Benefits

  • Posted by: Vottun

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) is a security system that requires more than one method of authentication. It is a method of confirming a user’s identity, only after two or more pieces of evidence have been provided to an authentication mechanism. The three basic elements that can be used in Multi-factor Authentication are: (a) something the user knows, like a password or PIN (b) something the user has, like a mobile device, and (c) something the user is, like fingerprint, optics, or voice. Each of these factors can be referred to as knowledge, possession, and inherence respectively.

The password is the most widely used form of security measure available, and a lot of times, it is susceptible to vulnerability. In 2016, statistics revealed that the leading source of data breaches are hackers and cybercriminals who are after identity theft. The password, however, has a lot of shortcomings, as it does not provide strong enough identity check. The security of an account is based solely on the password, and anyone good enough can hack into a password and take what they need.

This has pushed a lot of companies and corporate bodies to seek better alternatives and the MFA is the best bet as it can be used to supplement the password as a means of access control, or in some cases, actual alternative passwords. The goal of the MFA is to create a layered defense and make it extremely difficult for unauthorized persons to access an account, a network, or database.

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor Authentication, also known as 2FA, is a subset of multi-factor authentication. This method adds another layer of protection to your account by sending a second OTP (one-time-password) from another device you control after you have logged in with your usual password. There are two of three ways to authenticate yourself: (a) something you know, like a password or PIN (b) something you have, like a mobile phone, or debit card, or (c) something you are, like a fingerprint, retinal scan, or signature. Each of these factors can be referred to as knowledge, possession, and inherence respectively.

Two-factor authentication increases your level of security with a few simple clicks, and it is available for most services that require passwords, from bitcoin wallets to email accounts to social media accounts. It is useful because if the first factor of security is breached, the hacker will still need a second password created from an app on a mobile device. Without the availability of the second password, the hacker will not be able to gain access.

How It Works

Two-factor authentication works similar to your existing login procedure, the difference is that another an additional piece of information is required. This additional information can be sent to you with the help of an OTP that is sent to your mobile device or email address. It can also take the form of a code on an app such as Google Authenticator or Authy that you need to enter on the website’s login page, along with your credentials.

Using your email or SMS is, however, not advisable, as hackers can hack into your email or use social engineering to get a copy of your sim card. A mobile app for generating the token, is a lot safer, as you are in complete control of your security. Using 2FA is easy and makes your account security more advanced.

The Importance of the Two-Factor Authentication for Wallets

Cryptocurrency wallets contain your cryptocurrency, which can be stored in a hardware wallet, mobile wallet, desktop wallet, or online wallet. The security of your funds should be utmost in your mind. Cryptocurrencies have been plagued by cybercriminals for a long time. It has forced big exchange platforms like Mt. Gox to pack up and have thoroughly shaken up some others. When these thefts, phishing, or hacks happen, the customers’ money is gone and gone for good.

But on a more personal note, it is important that you take steps to ensure that your wallets have at least, a 2-factor authentication built in, to boost your security. Devices connected online are very prone hacks and thefts, as anyone good enough can hack into your account, input your password, and do away with your hard-earned coins.

A two-factor authentication creates an extra security layer for the wallet. When the first security detail is entered, which is usually your PIN, a one-time-password will be sent to you as a text message or as an email. Until the code is entered, you will not be able to access your wallet and your coins. Even if someone manages to get hold of your wallet and gets your pin correctly, the hacker will be stuck, as he will be required to answer another security question, because there is another authorization layer on top of the usual signing in. With 2FA, your wallet and coins are to a very large extent, secured.

Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication

  1. Strengthens and Advances Security – The principle of the MFA is that each factor compensates for the weakness of other factors. For example, something you know, like your PIN or password, can be susceptible to hacks or social engineering attacks. But it can be supplemented by adding an authentication factor that is not easily guessed, like “something you are”, like fingerprints and retinal scans, which will make it very difficult for hackers to break through.
  2. An Essential Component of Cybersecurity – The threats of data breaches are not lost on many companies. Cybersecurity has become a priority lately for many organizations, and to effectively address this, many companies are implementing the multi-factor authentication, as many of them think that it is the best security measure that can be implemented to protect their company, users, and sensitive data.
  3. Simplification of Login Process – Multi-factor authentication does not automatically translate to a complicated login process. The added security provided by MFA allows companies to more advanced login options like single sign-on. Single sign-on works by validating the user through MFA during the login process. As soon as the user is authenticated, they are logged into their single sign-on software.
Author: Vottun