Is Multi-Factor Authentication Safer than just having a Password?
Is Multi-Factor Authentication Safer than Password alone?
With technology advancement daily, it is not surprising to have a machine able to guess 100 million combinations per second on your user name and password.
It's a matter of time before the right combination will gain access to your computer or anything you need to protect. Having the user name and password concept of security that keep hackers away will not work nowadays.
More sophisticated security is needed, and thus, multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two factors authentication (2FA) has started to gain popularity in the market.
The concept of MFA or 2FA is one of the best ways to help protect account access. It uses an additional authentication method more than just a password, by having software design to request more information after the correct username/password combination. Information request could be from Knowledge of a user (i.e. Color of the first car ever driven), some possession (using a YubiKey, one-time password sent to cellphone, Google Authenticator etc.) or Inherence (i.e. as fingerprint, retina scan, voice recognition)
Action or Sci-Fi movies have plots where access to vault requires retina scan, fingerprint etc. Special equipment such as a retina or fingerprint scanner may be out of reach for many in real life. Still, cellphone SMS, one-time and time-sensitive password authentication software libraries are commonly available in the market.
For example, in a typical 2FA authenticator library, all it takes to gain access is the standard username and password pairing and then a prompt for another challenge in the form of 6 digits PIN-number available from a previously paired cellphone software or SMS. The PIN-number can be a continually-changing number produced by the authenticator application on the smartphone. The application on the cell phone is only accessible by the account owner.
Unlike a standard username/password pairing, the 2FA or MFA may be an inconvenience for the user to access. It has the additional step of looking and keying-in an additional PIN-number from the cellphone. But for a hacker, unless they can get the owner's cellphone on hand, the chances of guessing everything right is difficult than just password protection.
Multi-Factor Authentication is powerful. Most libraries are freely available from the internet, and not surprising that it has become one of the most recommended fixes for organizations of all sizes.
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Note on Text or SMS-based MFA:
Some services offer MFA over a text message to the cellphone.
As technology advances, these techniques may not be as secure as known vulnerabilities where a hacker can now intercept a text message. On top of these, there can be human manipulation where, in many cases, an attacker can convince a cell phone provider to change a service to change or update to their phone. Due to these reasons, it is strongly recommended not to use text or SMS-based MFA methods.
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