2FA: Why to use it — and what are the best options?

Luis Corrons 13 Apr 2023

The importance of 2FA lies in the fact that it significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to people's accounts.

In today's digital age, it's essential to protect your online accounts from hackers and cybercriminals. Unfortunately, the traditional method of protecting an account with just a password is still used by the vast majority of people. With the number of security breaches and hacks that happen on a daily basis, relying solely on a password is useless and puts your sensitive information at risk.  

Your passwords will be stolen. It’s not a matter of “if,” it is a matter of “when” and “how many times.” 

The problem with passwords is that they are easily compromised. Even if you choose a strong and complex password, it can still be hacked or guessed by a determined cybercriminal. Furthermore, people often reuse the same password across multiple accounts, meaning that if one account is compromised, all of their accounts are at risk. Passwords are also vulnerable to phishing attacks, where hackers trick people into giving away their password or other sensitive information. And if none of that works, there are billions (literally) of credentials for sale. 

This is where two-factor authentication (2FA) comes in. 2FA is a security measure that requires two forms of identification to access an account, adding an extra layer of security to protect your sensitive information. 2FA can take various forms, including receiving a one-time code via text message or a mobile app, using a hardware token, or using biometric factors like fingerprints or facial recognition. 

The importance of 2FA for consumers lies in the fact that it significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to their accounts. Even if a hacker manages to obtain a user's password, they still require an additional form of authentication, which is typically much more challenging to obtain. 

There are different 2FA solutions available to consumers. The most popular are: 

SMS-based 2FA 

This involves receiving a one-time code via text message to authenticate the user's account. The advantage is that it's easy to set up and use. The disadvantage is that SMS messages can be intercepted or spoofed, and SIM-swapping is more and more common. 

Authenticator apps 

These are mobile apps that generate one-time codes for authentication. They are more secure than SMS-based 2FA, as the codes are generated locally on the user's device. The disadvantage is that users must have a smartphone or other device to use the app. 

Hardware tokens 

These are physical devices that generate one-time codes for authentication. The advantage is that they are very secure and not vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks. The disadvantage is that they can be costly and may be difficult to set up. 

From email to social media accounts to online banking, most people today have a lot of accounts. That means setting up 2FA across every account can seem daunting.  

With that in mind, start with your email account.  Many online accounts offer you the ability to reset your credentials if you forgot them, and in most cases, they do so by sending an email message. So securing the inbox has to be the primary goal; otherwise you risk have most, if not all, your accounts stolen.  

Using authenticator apps such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator is the most straightforward approach. Both are free and most services support them. After that, you have to go through each and every account and activate the 2FA option.  

In conclusion, 2FA is an essential security measure that consumers should use to protect their online accounts. Passwords alone are no longer enough to protect sensitive information from cybercriminals. We would recommend not using SMS-based 2FA solutions and instead going for  authenticator apps as the bare minimum approach to secure accounts. You will significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your accounts and protect your sensitive information from cyber threats. 

Finally, if you would like to learn more about the intricacies of 2FA, you should read the detailed article we published in our Academy about this topic.

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