Why Two-Factor Authentication Is the Security Standard for Businesses

This entry was posted in Security on by .

According to statistics from 2018, a massive 90 percent of Gmail users don’t use two-factor authentication (2FA). This represents a massive problem and a lack of understanding of this security standard, which could cause huge issues for businesses.

Two-factor authentication has been an obstacle to cyber crime for years, but too few of us still actually use it, even though it provides additional protection with minimal complications.

In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at two-factor authentication, what it is, the tremendous advantages it can bring to your business, and how you can implement it. 

Are you ready to learn more and start improving the security of your business? Then read on and learn more.

What Is 2FA?

At its most basic level, two-factor authentication is a security standard that means a user is required to verify their attempt to login on to a new computer. When a user attempts to log into their account, you can have a text sent to their phone that contains a code. They need to type this code in to verify their login attempt and be allowed access.

This code expires within minutes, which means that if they can’t get the code, they will need to try and log in again. Depending on the level of security that’s required, you can set your 2FA system so a user needs a code every time they log on or have your system remember that machine.

While a lot of 2FA users like receiving the code on their phone, there are other verification methods available. For instance, you can receive the code in a phone call, an app, or use a hardware security key for offline verification. In a particularly slow case of 2FA, Google asks new Maps users to have a code mailed to them to verify their business address.

While text messaging offers strong security, it is possible for sophisticated attackers to redirect texts. For this reason, if you value very high security, you may prefer to use an app or a keyfob to generate your code.

While there are other types of 2FA like asking the “what’s your first dog’s name” type of questions or using biometric data, these are less common than using single-use codes.

How Does 2FA Work?

Two-factor authentication works with quite a simple mechanism, despite the serious boost it offers to information security. When a user logs into a service, app, or anything else, their password is checked against an encrypted version to ensure that it matches.

If the password doesn’t match, the user fails the first layer of authentication and can’t log in. If the password is correct, the user can then proceed to the next layer of authentication. This is why using 2FA is so important: if someone can guess your password or phishes for it, and you don’t use 2FA, they can access the account: it’s that simple.

In cases where the provider and accountholder use 2FA, a password isn’t enough. If the device’s address has been registered before, the user can skip 2FA but if it fails this check, the service will send a code via SMS or require the use of an authenticator app, etc.

Why You Need to Adopt This Security Standard

Using two-factor authentication is vital in today’s world. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the crucial benefits that 2FA offers your business.

A Whole New Layer of Security

Whichever type of 2FA you use, it is another layer that a would-be attacker will need to crack. It removes the possibility of them simply guessing a password and logging in.

A novice hacker may also be deterred by the mere presence of 2FA. While no system is completely hack-proof, adding 2FA is like putting additional armor onto your business’ security.

A Variety of Different Approaches

Whatever the size, scope, and budget of your business, there is an approach to 2FA that will work for you. It is easy to scale and can grow and shrink with your business, too. 

Additional Abilities to Investigate Suspicious Activity

Two-factor authentication can aid in investigating suspicious activity. If someone logs in successfully then fails the second layer of authentication, could it be a hacker at work? 

This type of logging is only possible with 2FA, which means that it could play a vital role in figuring out what has gone wrong.

Increased Productivity

Let’s say that your employees want to use their own personal laptops to work from home, rather than using one that’s been supplied by the business. If there is keylogger malware lurking on that computer, it could record their password and give hackers the key to your network.

If you use 2FA, that risk is mitigated. A hacker may know the password but they will still need more to be able to log in. This means that 2FA can give you a little bit of extra flexibility when it comes to securing devices, which in turn can lead to better employee productivity.

A 2FA Notification Makes Users Aware of Nefarious Activity

Think of all the accounts you have that don’t use 2FA. How would you know if someone had hacked into them and were browsing them right now, as you read this? The truth of the matter is that you wouldn’t, and a hacker might not leave any trace of their being there.

A 2FA notification when you haven’t logged in raises awareness. Immediately, you know that something isn’t right and can take action, whether that involves notifying your IT security staff or changing your password. 

An Easier Way for Employees to Reset Passwords

Good password policy is vital for a business. You don’t want to end up with employees using the most common passwords like “abc123,” “qwerty,” or, heaven forbid, “password.” 

Yet setting secure passwords can sometimes make those passwords, frankly, easy to forget. When an employee forgets their password, they need to get in touch with your IT helpdesk, who then need to take time out of their workday to reset the password, and in the end, everyone loses productivity. This isn’t an ideal solution.

An advantage of 2FA is that you can use it to verify a request to change passwords, too. The user doesn’t need to get in touch with anyone else, all they need to do is have their verification method closeby and they can reset it themselves.

Integrating 2FA Into Your Business

While the list of advantages is long, how can you go about integrating 2FA into your business’ security? How do you make it as much a part of your security as your antivirus and antimalware software?

Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do to make 2FA work for you.

Choose What You Want to Secure With 2FA

Securing everything with 2FA is unnecessary and very inefficient. Not everything is going to contain confidential data, and having to use 2FA to access something mundane is going to frustrate your employees.

More to the point, not everything supports 2FA. You should use 2FA for logging onto your corporate email accounts, as well as for accessing your network or using a VPN, etc. 

Choosing Your 2FA Method

There are multiple 2FA methods, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, earlier we discussed SMS messages and their potential security flaws, which may outweigh the convenience aspect.

A hardware token that generates a code is another possibility, as is a software token that your IT team can install on secure devices. 

Each method comes with its own particular balance of security and convenience, for instance, a hardware token is generally ultra-secure but your employees could lose it. Deciding how you will implement 2FA is an important decision and not one to take lightly.

Using 2FA Outside Your Company’s Network

As well as using 2FA to secure your network, you should also consider using it in other parts of your business, too. For instance, do you use 2FA to prevent hackers from logging into your company’s social media accounts? If not, you should add 2FA here too, rolling it out at the same time as you add 2FA to the rest of your business.

Training Employees

It’s very common to hear complaints from employees when 2FA is being rolled out. One of the most common ones is that it makes logging in too complex or takes too much time.

It is true that 2FA means logging in takes longer, but the extra time it takes is well worth exchanging for the massive increase in information security that it offers.

Yet it’s understandable, given the low Gmail 2FA uptake, that your employees will need some time to get used to 2FA when you first introduce it. They may never have used it before or may never have used a hardware/software token before.

Training new users to 2FA means introducing them to the concept, making sure they know to bring a token to work with them (if applicable), and more. So what does 2FA training actually look like?

Explain the Benefits

Employees may be somewhat unclear on what benefits 2FA actually offers. All they may be able to see is the increased time it takes to log in, or they may overestimate the complexity involved.

It’s up to you to explain that it’s a vital component of your business’ approach to information security. Talk about why it matters and how it can stop hackers from accessing their data. You may also wish to explain the benefits it has when it comes to investigation, accountability, and awareness of a hack attempt.

Demonstrate How it Works

You should also demonstrate 2FA to your employees. Load up your own laptop or other device and log into the network. When it prompts you to use 2FA, show them what you need to do and how it works.

Simply demonstrating what they need to do may go a long way to assuaging their fears and removing any ideas of complexity.

Take Time Out to Allow Users to Get Used to it

Rushing into 2FA is only going to complicate matters. Scheduling some time out of a workday so that users can use it for the first time and ask you and your IT team any questions is vital. 

Be Receptive About Questions

Your employees may well have a lot of questions about 2FA after it’s been introduced. Be receptive to these questions and make your best effort to answer all of them.

The first few weeks are also the time when there will most likely be some issues with 2FA and its integration. If these occur, make sure that your employees know what they need to do to report problems so that you and your team can solve them as quickly as possible.

An Essential Security Standard

Adding 2FA to your business and letting your employees get used to it will take a matter of weeks, but the additional security for your business lasts forever. If you aren’t very sure about which type of 2FA is best for you or how you can add it to your business, then we’re here to help you.

We’re a team of IT security experts who would be very happy to help you integrate this new security standard into your business. We can help you choose your 2FA method, help you install it, and help train your employees. For more information or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

About Chad Lauterbach

CEO at Be Structured Technology Group, Inc. a Los Angeles based provider of Managed IT Services for small business. I desire to help small businesses better utilize technology by assisting in high level planning to make sure that new systems will benefit them both operationally and financially. I am careful to implement and support systems using industry best practices.