Two-factor authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication (2FA) — technology for protecting accounts (personal accounts) and other digital data.

Passing a user through double authentication involves using not only a traditional login with a password, but also a digital code (usually a six-digit one) to log into account. Previously, such codes were sent as an SMS to a phone or mailbox. Today, special 2FA authenticators — are more often used for this. mobile apps, desktop programs, or even browser extensions.

Where is 2FA authentication used?

Most large modern online services are equipped with two-factor authentication systems. This includes e-mail, online banking systems, social networks, currency exchanges, and online games. In some cases, the use of 2FA is mandatory.

How does two-factor authentication work?

In practice, it looks like this:

  1. The user activates 2FA protection in his personal account on the website or in the settings of any online program.
  2. Next, the system generates a unique text code and/or a graphic QR code (if we are talking about a mobile app), which is necessary to connect the 2FA authenticator selected by the user to the account.
  3. From now on, a connection is established between the 2FA authenticator and the online platform protected by 2FA authentication. This triggers the 2FA authenticator to generate a temporary code that is updated every 30 seconds (typically).
  4. After entering the username and password, the subsequent login of the user to the account will also require the input of the code generated by the authenticator.

The use of two-factor authentication makes it necessary to always have a 2FA authenticator — PC program, mobile app or browser extension. If you lose your smartphone or remove the authenticator, there is a risk of losing access to a protected account. Therefore, when connecting a 2FA authenticator to an account, it is necessary to save data to restore access, as well as use the appropriate functionality (for example, specify a backup mail or phone number to restore access in case of loss of the phone or reinstallation of the 2FA authenticator).

The Benefits of Using Two-Factor Authentication

Using 2FA increases account security by at least two times. And it definitely makes a secure account "impenetrable" for any password guessing tools, which is very important for users using insecure (simple) passwords.

Even if a valid username and password from an account falls into the hands of an attacker, he will not be able to access the data, because he will need to enter the code generated by the 2FA authenticator. The only thing required from the user — protect the 2FA authenticator itself. It is safer to use a mobile app, and the phone must be protected by a password, pattern or otherwise.

What should I do if I need to grant access to a protected account to another person?

If you need to give access to an account with 2FA to another person, in addition to the login and password, you will have to send a message generated by the 2FA authenticator code. The user will have approximately 30 seconds to enter this code. If he doesn't have time, you will need to send a new code. Keep in mind that a secure online platform can block access to your account if you enter the 2FA code incorrectly several times in a row.