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What is two-factor authentication and why is it important?

Have you noticed that two-factor authentication has been appearing with increasing regularity on social media and other platforms? Read on to find out what it is and why you should use it.

It’s likely that you’ve heard about two-factor authentication (2FA) by now, and may have even set up 2FA on some of your personal accounts on social media or on various websites.

But what are the reasons that 2FA is suddenly cropping up everywhere, and why is it so important to ensure you’re doing everything you can to keep your personal data as safe as possible?

Keep reading to learn exactly what 2FA is, what types of 2FA are available, and how it helps to keep your passwords safe.

What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication is a security process whereby users must provide two different forms of identification to get into their account. It usually works alongside your usual username and password login.

It offers higher security than single-factor authentication (SFA), which requires only one method of identification to get into an account, usually comprising the standard username and password.

2FA makes it far more difficult for hackers or phishing accounts to get access to your personal data; even if they managed to discover your password, if you have 2FA enabled, then they still wouldn’t be granted access to the account to which they were trying to gain access.

It’s generally a better way to protect the user and their credentials and the resources they’re accessing.

What types of two-factor authentication are there?

There are a few different methods of 2FA that are currently being used, with some more effective than others.

There’s SMS and voice-based 2FA, which involves a message being sent directly to your phone. Usually, the message will include a one-time password (OTP) that the account holder can use to gain access to their account following the initial login stage.

While this method is still quite popular, it isn’t the most secure since phones can be hacked. If your phone was stolen, with that person trying to get into an account, they would be able to use the code sent to you via your device.

Software tokens are one of the most popular ways to use 2FA. This involves downloading an application onto your device, and when logging into an account, you have to enter the security code provided by the app. Instagram supports this form of 2FA, and it’s wildly seen as one of the safer ways to set up 2FA.

One of the newest versions of 2FA is biometric or inherence factor, which requires you to use your fingerprint or a facial recognition scan to access your account. The benefits are that you’re the only one capable of unlocking the verification, and it’s becoming an option for users who download 2FA apps such as Microsoft Authenticator.

There are also push notifications, which immediately notify users when someone is attempting to log in to their account. Twitter currently uses this, so you become aware if your account is compromised as soon as it happens.

Why is two-factor authentication important?

Two-factor authentication is important since it adds another layer of security to your account, making it even more difficult for people to gain access without your permission. In addition, as hackers and phishing accounts get smarter, it’s important to ensure your account is as protected as possible, which is the reason some websites and applications are even enlisting three-factor authentication (3FA) for further protection.

Moreover, since the average person now has multiple accounts, it’s increasingly likely that folk are reusing the same usernames and passwords for different platforms. This is dangerous, since it makes it easier for hackers to access multiple accounts and discover more of your data, so relying on more than just a password will help to keep hackers out.

Two-factor authentication is also usually very simple to set up and is encouraged on most social media sites and email service providers, so it’s never been easier to set up 2FA for your personal accounts.

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