Sep 28, 2023
Our lives practically revolve around our mobile devices. We store a wealth of personal and financial data in virtual spaces for ease, speed, and convenience. But as our reliance on technology grows, so does the concern for our digital safety.
Connectivity brings unique challenges as cybercrooks seek new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and steal our most sensitive data.
Fortunately, two-factor authentication (MFA) provides a modern-day solution to your online problems. In this article, we’ll walk you through the MFA setup to help you adopt additional security measures for your apps.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication enforces an extra layer of security to your online accounts. It prompts users to provide two separate and distinct verification forms for authorized access.
MFA is a popular type of multi-factor authentication (MFA), which uses two or more identity checks to protect digital systems.
With 2-step verification, the first factor is usually something you know, such as a username or password. Security questions also fall under this category.
The second factor is something you have, like a numerical code, mobile app, or physical security key.
How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?
Traditionally, a server validates a login request containing your username and password over the Internet to grant you access. An intruder only needs to know these details to steal your online identity and all sensitive data in your account.
To achieve a higher level of security, you must enable another authentication method via a separate channel. This additional layer of login verification could be a 6-digit code sent via an SMS text message or a third-party authentication app on your mobile phone.
Even if the attacker has your login credentials, there’s no way an attacker can breach your account without access to your secondary network or the security code it carries.
Why You Need Two-Factor Authentication
Password managers can create complex passwords for all your apps and back them up in Cloud storage, but stealing passwords has gotten so much easier. As cyber criminals become bolder, strong passwords no longer cut it.
Take phishing attacks, for example. Scammers trick people into revealing sensitive information through legitimate-looking emails or SMS messages. These messages instill a sense of threat or urgency, often claiming a security breach or other account issues.
Unsuspecting victims may inadvertently provide their one-time passwords or click links that direct them to a fake website to alter their login credentials.
Some hackers can grab your login details using a keylogger. This malware can log keystrokes on your computer or snap screenshots of on-screen texts. Brute force attacks can also crack passwords using a master key to form an exhaustive number of guesses.
With a few extra steps, you can surf the web without worrying about these security threats. Additionally, you can generate backup codes when you set up your MFA. Also known as recovery codes, they’re pretty handy for offline use or when you lose your phone.
Methods Used in Two-Factor Authentication
Individuals and businesses can use a broad array of authentication methods to protect personal data. Let’s explore those various options:
SMS-based two-factor authentication involves sending a one-time verification code to your registered mobile number. You then enter it into the authentication page of the app or website you’re trying to access.
Most apps employ a two-step SMS verification to protect user accounts. For example, Twitter (now X) offers this security service to Twitter Blue members for a fee.
However, SMS-based MFA isn’t bullet-proof. It has become less secure over time due to SIM swapping and phishing attempts targeting SMS codes.
Authentication App (Bridge Vault uses this one!)
Usually, a third-party authenticator app uses a time-based one-time password (TOTP) as a second verification factor. Apps like Authy or Google Authenticator sync with the linked online service to generate the same authentication code for a brief period of time.
TOTP is harder to intercept because the temporary password expires within a brief window. Plus, you don’t need an Internet connection to use it. It’s a step up from SMS verification and a preferred method by many companies.
In addition to TOTP, some authentication apps, like Duo Mobile, use an adaptive authentication method. The authentication rules change depending on a user’s role, approximate location, and other factors at each login.
Hardware Security Key
A hardware security key is a physical device that you insert into a USB port or tap against a phone via Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC-enabled devices use wireless technology to exchange information with each other.
Often referred to as security or hardware tokens, a physical security key is one of the most secure forms of two-factor authentication. In fact, you can use it as a sole authentication method.
This authentication method uses your unique physical traits, like fingerprint, voice, or face, as the second factor.
Duo Mobile, for instance, can tap into the built-in biometrics reader on your smartphone or laptop using the Web Authentication API (WebAuthn).
How to Set Up Two-Factor Authentication On Bridge Vault
To set up your one-time code using your authenticator app, follow these steps:
1) Download an authenticator app, if you don’t have one installed already. We recommend using Google Authenticator or Authy.
2) On Google, for example, open the app and tap the “+” button then “scan QR code”
3) Scan the QR code or copy and paste the setup key provided to you during sign up in your authenticator app. If you used the setup key, save your account as “Bridge Vault.”
5) A generated one-time code for Bridge Vault will appear.
6) Enter the one-time code when prompted in Bridge Vault.
Two-factor authentication isn’t just another marketing buzzword. It’s a robust security method that uses “something you know’ and “something you have” to prove who you say you are.
Whether it’s your bank, email, or social media accounts, a MFA setup protects you against phishing scams, identity theft, and other cybercrimes.