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Two-Factor Authentication: The Pros and Cons

 BONUS MATERIAL: How 2FA Lowers the Risk of Data Breaches?

Two-factor authentication provides another security layer to an online account. This technology is supposed to protect sensitive data making hacking attempts useless. In this article, we will reveal the broader advantages and disadvantages of 2FA and consider each authentication of the methods separately.  

The common example of password entry is using one time passwords sent by SMS to your mobile phone while you're trying to connect to your account online. Then you enter either a unique code or one-time password which you could be alerted to immediately by push notifications.

On the combination of factor authentication, 2FA can be considered today the most optimal due to the combination of security convenience and applied force characteristics.

One or more authentication methods for unambiguous use for which security is built are known as authentication factors. These consist of codes, passwords, login passwords and certificates. The use of multifactor authentication increases system security for your online accounts. However, the more security stages used, the more time consuming the authentication method is. 

Why has 2FA become so relevant

Traditionally authentication was completed using passwords or usernames with authorized users. This worked perfectly when very few Internet users were available.

The advent of Web access has greatly intensified the scale and complexity of user authentication risks that organizations must face. Problems such as weak passwords are targeted by attackers that exploit cybersecurity to breach the networks.

With digital security a major talking point, guarding your organisation’s knowledge and sensitive data is integral to most businesses. In recent years, two-factor authentication has become more prevalent as a way of protecting against cyber threats. Here are the pros and cons.

Learn more about two-factor authentication in our comprehensive guide!

The pros

It adds a second layer of security

This is an obvious point to make, but it is also the most obvious benefit of employing a system of two-factor authentication. Whereas a password has been the modus operandi for pretty much as long as accounts have needed to be kept private in the digital world, a password only offers one layer of security. 

If that password is discovered, then that is security breached. Strong passwords have been recommended for some time, usually involving a combination of letters, numbers and special characters, but the fact is it remains only one form of protection. 

Furthermore, other more secure methods to access personal information such as a voice recognition device are still only one layer that needs to be breached.


Click here to get our whitepaper on how 2FA lowers the risk of data breaches


It adds variation

That 100% improvement in security levels only applies if you use a second password in the same manner that you employ the first. The truth is, two-factor authentication usually combines the authentication systems you use, therefore increasing security levels to a much greater extent.

As well as using mobile devices as a means of sending on a security key (a tried-and-tested two-factor authentication process), other means of achieving this, such as inherent authentication, using a physical characteristic to identify you. This could be fingerprint technology, retinal-scanning or a voice-activated system, for example. These all greatly enhance your security systems when employed as part of a two-factor process.

It can be cost-effective

Two-factor authentication systems are not expensive as a rule. If you decide to introduce retinal scanning or voice recognition as a second step, then obviously the price is going to increase, but advancements in these techniques mean that you can also employ these types of hardware systems at relatively cost-efficient prices these days.  

The cons

Time

When it comes to time, everything is relative. So, whereas for many the time it takes to access accounts with a two-factor authentication process would be negligible in terms of capacity, for others, such as using a card reader each time would be a wasteful process which, when spread out over employees, does indeed equate to inefficient use of time.

Some two-factor authentication systems, such as SMS, are obviously quicker than others to implement, so the proper research is recommended here if this is a concern. A two-step process will always take more time for that second step so for data or accounts that aren't important a two-step authentication system is unnecessary.

There are different factors affecting one time passwords which are usually on a timer. This means the code or number they send you will run out if you don't use it quickly enough. If you are suffering from a dodgy signal on your mobile phone you might be waiting around a while for the code or number to arrive to login into your account.

Furthermore, even with push notifications, you may miss this access code, leading to further time wasted. This shows how there are also cons of two-factor authentication for unimportant data or accounts. A simple one-step password would be a more suitable method to log in on your devices.

It’s not foolproof

The reality is that no security system is totally foolproof – that is the nature of the cyber landscape right now. Two-factor authentication processes are certainly more effective than one-factor systems, that much is evident, but determined hackers can still implement any number of devious schemes and malware threats to undermine your system and access your sensitive data.

That is not easy to achieve. The ways in which two-factor authentication systems can be circumvented or breached will depend on several factors, not least the kind of authentication systems that you actually use, as some are more effective than others. But while a password, for example, can be inadvertently shared, the same cannot be said of inherent recognition in two-step authentication. 

Cybercriminals have developed increasingly devious, underhand yet sophisticated hardware to copy this information to steal data and access accounts. Recent posts online show 2fa is far more secure than the alternatives however nothing is foolproof when it comes to cybersecurity.

Cost

While relative to the organization, inevitably a two-factor authentication system will involve some extra cost, and for smaller organizations that can be restrictive. As there are so many options out there, the cost increases can be minimised, however, so this need not rule out the adoption of one of these systems. The cost of losing key personal data and user accounts is often far higher than multifactor authentication will ever cost.

Click here to get our whitepaper on how 2FA lowers the risk of data breaches


They can malfunction

This point obviously depends on the system you implement, but the more sophisticated the two-factor authentication system is, the greater the possibility there is for malfunctions to occur. It may not be likely, but is possible, and any instance affects productivity.

Summary

While there are cons of two-factor authentication for more sensitive and personal data, when secure verification is needed, multi-factor authentication is a must.  

In this digital age, the disadvantages of 2FA are minimal compared to how common cyber-attacks and crime are, so make sure your devices are protected. The common ownership of mobile phones means 2FA is easy to implement. While time-consuming, its methods are cost-effective and guarantee the extra protection your accounts need.

Mārcis Jurisons
2021-09-09 00:00:00 UTC
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