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The Business Owner’s Guide to Two-Factor Authentication

The Business Owner’s Guide to Two-Factor Authentication

If you’re running a business, understanding and implementing two-factor authentication is a must. It’s a fact that today, we all utilize IT solutions to do things more efficiently in our businesses. This has made us dependant on our IT infrastructure.


With the growth of cybercrime and hacking, this means that you’re becoming an ever larger target for hackers and other nefarious actors. Obviously, going back to pen and paper and filing cabinets isn’t really the best response to this threat. What you want to do is learn more about securing your IT and implementing the best measures.


While there are many steps you can take to improve security, one of the easiest and yet most-beneficial methods is implementing two-factor authentication wherever you can.


Why is two-factor authentication so important?


Two-factor authentication is more secure than just using a password. Hackers already know how to crack passwords and get the data they want.


You might think that making your employees use complex passwords and changing them often will keep you safe, but that’s not true. Having more complex passwords might help a little, but it only slows down the hackers a bit; It doesn’t stop them from breaking in.


Hackers have many ways of finding out the passwords they seek. They can use brute force attacks. This is where a program automatically tries every single combination there is until something works.


They can also use social engineering to get to the password in another way. All it takes is a single naive employee to let them through the door. That’s why single authentication is really vulnerable. Luckily, we have two-factor authentication at our disposal nowadays – something that improves security substantially.


A famous example of two-factor authentication is your Gmail account. If you have a Gmail account, you were probably asked to add a phone number sometime in the past couple of years. After you provide your phone number, Gmail enables “phone-based two-factor authentication” and asks you to login again. And then, after you login for the first time, you need to submit the code you’ve received on your phone. This helps confirm your identity.


Obviously, this kind of protection is a lot more difficult for hackers to break. The hacker can’t just get access to your employee’s phone. Even if they get your employee’s password, they won’t be able to login once the system asks them for additional phone verification.


Two-factor authentication is more secure than only using a password.


Two-factor authentication comes in many forms


The phone-based 2FA method is quite famous and most people encounter it when using one of the big platforms. But two-factor authentication (2FA) comes in many other forms, too.


It doesn’t have to be a “secret verification code delivered by phone”. This second factor can be literally anything. It just needs to be something that’s only accessible to the user in question. At least that’s the idea. Let’s look at the major ways to implement two-factor authentication.


Information only the user knows, i.e. a security question or pin. This is the oldest and most widespread form of 2FA. It’s also the easiest one to hack.


You’ve probably seen this on some major platforms where they ask you to pick several “secret questions” and submit their answers. Stuff like “at what age did you get your first pet?” While this is, in fact, a “second layer of verification”, it’s basically nothing more than a “second password”.


If the hacker can get your password, it’s a safe bet they can discover “your favorite flavor of ice cream”, too.


Something only the user has access to, i.e. a preset email address, a certain device or identification card.


With this type of 2FA, you use the item itself to verify your identity. For example, a hardware dongle that you insert into the PC. A hacker won’t manage to login without this device in their possession. 


Alternatively, this might be based on inputting codes generated by a device that you own. For example, you can link your account to an authenticator app on your phone that generates such codes. Each code is unique and only appears on your smartphone. A hacker would be unable to login unless they physically get a hold of your smartphone.


The aforementioned phone-based verification methods also fall under this category. For example, sending verification codes to a phone you own – either by text or voice message.


Something only a particular individual can provide, i.e. voice authentication, retina scan or a thumbprint. This is also known as biometric authentication and is usually necessary for companies that store a lot of sensitive information.


This system is very expensive to install. So, unless you think that your company must have this kind of protection, it’s probably unnecessary.


Two-factor authentication (2FA) comes in many forms.


Two-factor authentication improves security in several ways


Two-factor authentication secures your sensitive data by preventing hacks and unauthorized entry. Your overall security improves as a result of the overall reduction in vulnerability. This is due to three distinct advantages:


  • There is a much smaller chance of a compromise overall. Even without hacking, traditional passwords can be forgotten, stolen or misplaced. On the other hand, the “second factor” in 2FA is something that only an authorized user can provide.


  • Most 2FA systems include a warning feature. Hence, if someone is failing with the “second-factor”, you will immediately get a notification. So, you and your IT provider will know immediately when someone tries to break into an account. That way, you’ll be able to act fast and prevent damage.


  • Even if a single account is compromised, the others remain protected because of the second form of verification. The vulnerability is reduced across the business.


It will not hurt your productivity (nelektor)


One of the main “objections” you might hear is something like “But won’t that bother my employees?”. |Isn’t it just an extra burden and a hassle for them?” 


Honestly, the answer is a resounding no, not at all. If implemented properly, it should only add 5-20 seconds to the authentication process. And this isn’t an additional 20 seconds of work with every login. Most of the time it’s good enough to set the 2FA to ask for verification once a week, or even once a month. Perhaps each morning if you want to be especially “careful”.


We recommend something the user has or knows as a form of additional verification.


Basically, all of your employees will have to take twenty more seconds to log in to their accounts at the beginning of their work hours or every Monday. It’s definitely not something that will hurt your productivity.


And if an employee needs reassurance, just let them know what they are avoiding. Have them imagine the kind of disaster you are avoiding by implementing 2FA. Paint for them the catastrophic scenario they’d have to deal with if they were hacked and had all of their work wiped out. It would (potentially) result in many hundreds of hours of lost productivity. They prevent all of that by just taking extra 20 seconds once a week to keep things safe.


How do you implement two-factor authentication in your business


The first thing you need to do is look at the different services that you already use. If you’re using any cloud services as part of your business workflow, find out if they offer two-factor authentication. All of the major players like Dropbox, Google, Amazon (etc) offer two-factor authentication, so try to enable it where you can.


But if you really want to utilize 2FA in every aspect of your IT infrastructure, you will need professional help. Your best bet is a professional IT service provider that deals with businesses like yours. A quality provider will help you restructure your entire IT for the latest in safety practices. That includes helping you decide on the best software solutions, setting up safety and security procedures and so much more.


As it turns out, Inspired Techs is just such a leading IT service provider. We’ve helped countless businesses just like yours to implement the security that their business needs. This includes 2FA solutions where needed. If you need help deciding on 2FA and how to implement it in your business, feel free to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!