If your personal online activity extends beyond watching funny cat videos, you’ve probably encountered two-step authentication. If you have more than one web-facing device, you’ve probably encountered two-step authentication. Multi-factor authentication for home and business is being used increasingly as an essential security system to safeguard accounts. And if your small business gives multiple people access to important accounts and software, multi-factor authentication provides an essential tool.
What is multi-factor authentication?
With multi-factor authentication, users must provide multiple pieces of electronic evidence (aka, factors) to verify their identity.
For example, you log on to a new-to-you computer to pay your credit card, enter your username and password, and then must identify a pre-chosen security icon. Or you open advanced software and sign on, and the software sends a verification code to your smartphone, which you then submit on the computer.
The purpose of this extra step, of course, is to ensure that unauthorized users don’t access sensitive data or financial assets.
The system and its variety of forms are also referred to as MFA, two-factor authentication (2FA), and two-step verification. Multi-factor authentication systems use two of the three distinct factors to verify identity:
- Knowledge you possess (your username, password, security PIN, etc.)
- An object you possess (smartphone, SIM card, etc.)
- Your personal physical identity (fingerprint, iris, and other biometrics)
The standard username-plus-password sign-in uses only your knowledge, while multi-factor authentication uses knowledge plus at least one other means of verification – a code sent to your smartphone or facial recognition, for example.
Using multi-factor authentication for home and business
MFA can prove essential for your business. If multiple people have access to your website, social media, internet, financial information, etc., the likelihood of your business being hacked expands exponentially. For your business (as well as for your personal accounts), you should commit to using MFA whenever possible. The small extra step can save big trouble in the long run.
Many of the applications you may use regularly already offer two-step verification. This includes Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Dropbox, Intuit, PayPal, and Square.
A third-party authenticator app (TPA) provides another option for added security, often by generating a code – different each time – to use for authentication on multiple applications. A TPA app bypasses the need to provide a phone number to each separate platform (some people also don’t want to share their phone numbers so freely). An app that is unique to your device will keep hackers at bay.
A TPA can also enable multiple users to have multi-factor authentication without a single phone number. In other words, if the account authenticates using a single phone number, that makes it challenging for anyone else on the team to log in using MFA without contacting the user with the authorized phone number.
Commonly used TPAs include:
Google Authenticator is easy to use and free for Android and iOS. It’s not just for your Google applications, either. The downside is that it doesn’t backup to the cloud, so if you lose your device or your device goes belly up, you’re in for a ride.
Microsoft Authenticator is similarly simple and free for Android and iOS. It’s not just for Microsoft applications. This app does offer Cloud backups, enabling you to sign in on a new device to get your codes and, if you choose, to use the same PIN, fingerprint, or facial recognition i.d.
Authy 2FA works with a multitude of different accounts and is free for Android and iOS. The app also gets backed up to the cloud, not only enabling you to switch to a new device, but also enabling you to use multiple devices.
LastPass offers both free and paid versions. It’s easy to use and works across all your devices and browsers. As the LastPass business option notes, “Connect employees to their work while
maintaining complete visibility and control.”
Duo Mobile is designed specifically for business. It makes it easy to identify and manage multiple accounts. It supports multiple authentication controls, including push notifications, biometrics, and passcodes, whatever method best meets different user needs.
So, do the two-step and dance to celebrate your stronger internet security!
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