Why two-factor authentication technology is the future of data security

13. June 2017 | Drooms

Technology is constantly changing, leading us to adapt to its innovation. However, one aspect of technology has stood the test of time for a long time. Passwords as a form of authenticating and securing your digital accounts have not budged much. But with the rise of cybercrime, it seems the old way of doing things is finally having to pave way for something new: two-factor authentication. But what is two-factor authentication and why is it the future of data security?

How does two-factor authentication work?

Two-factor authentication (2FA) essentially adds another level of authentication for your log-ins. Instead of using only your username and password, you need to have two out of three types of credentials to access your account.

There are generally four main types of two-factor authentications:

  • One-time password software tokens. A popular option, which sends a software-based credential to you directly. This is generally sent to a smartphone.
  • Biometrics. You use your body (fingerprint, voice, face, eyes) to unlock a service.
  • One-time password hardware tokens. You receive a one-time login using an external hardware, such as a smartcard.
  • USB keys. An emerging technology, where you use a USB key to access content.

The technology is widely available to use. You can use 2FA on Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram. Apple, Google and Microsoft also use it. We here at Drooms also provide two-factor authentication for the most confidential data room projects. This feature can be easily booked online on our web shop.

Despite the technology being widely available, user adaptation is still relatively low. A joint study by the University of Maryland and John Hopkins University found in 2016 that only 25% of respondents used 2FA on all devices and services. 45% of respondents said they use it for some services.

But should people and businesses be adapting 2FA whenever it is possible?

Why is 2FA the future of data security?

As mentioned earlier, passwords are simply not enough to protect you. However good and complicated your password is it still can be hacked and once this happens, you can’t do anything. According to FBI, “cyber criminals…obtain passwords more often than you think.”

The problem with passwords is how they must be extremely complex in order to be protective. We gave you some advice on how to set up a safer password in a previous blog post.

You also need a different password for all of your log-ins – this means password retention is hard. This is problematic for both the user and the business. Both will be compromised in the event the hackers obtain the password – businesses will need to spend a lot of money in preventing hacking, but they can still be vulnerable to users’ lack of proper handling of passwords. Knowing where liability lies in the event of hacking can be difficult.

With 2FA, you add that extra layer of security to your login. Even if the criminal is able to hack your password, they can’t do anything with it unless they also obtain access to your second authentication method (your smartphone, hardware or your physical body). The one-time password can’t be hacked because it is generated once the log-in is initiated and it only works that single time (often including an expiry). It’s also not known for the user or the service provider in advance, but it’s always generated on spot – which adds an extra layer of security.

Previously, the biggest hurdle for 2FA has been the inconvenience of it. However, the experience is constantly moving in a more convenient direction. Nowadays, mobile applications are able to use NFC to transfer all the information starting the process of logging in at once. The seamless process only requires the user to initiate the authentication with a device, such as a smartphone. The USB option provides similar ease of use and passwordless authentication mechanism utilises two-factor authentication solutions without the password.

The future will be the time for layered authentication

2FA is the safest security system currently in play. With smartphones being widely adopted, 2FA can’t any longer be hampered by inconvenience. As biometric technologies advance, things like voice recognition and iris scanning are likely to become a more relevant and secure way of authentication your online accounts.

For business, it’s important to keep adopting this technology and make it easy for customers to start using it. Indeed, the joint study found how 64% of non-users had never heard about the 2FA option or been prompted to use it. This requires a clear effort from the part of business to fix. It’s time to make single authentication obsolete in order to enhance data security.