What is Two-Factor Authentication, and Why Do I Need It?

Published on June 8, 2016

There’s no shortage of hackers, spammers, and spies trying to steal your information online. And we’re not just being hyperbolic: Major brands, prominent individuals, and institutions across the globe are fighting an increasingly fraught battle with cybercrime.

And many are losing.

For proof, just look at the mammoth Sony email leak from last year. Look at the University of Maryland, where thousands of students and employees had their personal records breached in 2014. Look at the digital currency industry, where Gatecoin recently faced a security breach that resulted in the loss of “$2 million in bitcoins and ethers.”

So how can you help keep your brand’s information – and, more importantly, your employees – safe? Two-factor authentication (commonly abbreviated to 2FA) is a great place to start.

What is Two-Factor (or "Dual Factor") Authentication?

2FA is a relatively easy-to-implement way to add an extra layer to your company’s log-in procedure. Rather than simply relying on a username and password (which is known as single-factor identification), 2FA requires users to also include another identifier, often tied to something physical, like a phone.

In many cases, users will enter their username and password, which will trigger an SMS to be sent to their cell number. Often, this SMS will contain an alpha-numeric code for users to enter, which will let them into their account.

Of course, there are many other forms of 2FA: If your bank requires you to answer security questions or provide some other relevant information (like the amount of your most recent deposit, for example), this is 2FA tied to your bill, confidential information that only you should know. Using an ATM requires both something you have (your card) and something you know (your PIN number).

Google Sign-in Security

There are plenty of other examples: 2FA may be tied to knowing an extra pattern, entering a phone number, or even a using a biometric scanner or voice print.

Why Do I Need Two-Factor Authentication?

We’d be willing to bet you already have 2FA in place in a lot of aspects of your life. In addition to the banking examples we’ve already talked about, plenty of major online services already encourage enabling 2FA to help bolster your individual privacy and security, including Twitter, PayPal, and DropBox (which each text you a code whenever you log in on a new device).

Why not set it up for your business? While certainly not impenetrable, 2FA is a way to help preserve your brand’s information and protect your site from unwelcome visitors. There are multiple ways to go about implementing 2FA: Start by looking into Google Authenticator, which is free to install on your mobile device and is able to configure with a variety of sites, including WordPress.

If you’re willing to shell out, there are digital security companies able to help you get started with 2FA, including DUO, which has implemented 2FA-based security solutions for brands like Threadless and Etsy.

And if this is all Greek – or, rather, Geek – to you, we’re here to help! Geek Chicago is a full service technology consultancy, here to help with all of your site’s design, development, and content creation needs. Our experienced team knows the ins and outs of creating, designing, and marketing for our digital age. Drop us a line today to get started!

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