Cybersecurity is on its way to becoming a $200-billion-dollar industry as we discussed in my previous blog “The Importance of CyberSecurity Access Control”. Like any industry this size, there are many different subcategories within it. In the aforementioned blog, I wrote about access control, what it is, and how it ties into cybersecurity. Today we’re going to talk about an effective means of access control known as Two-Factor Authentication!
Access Control with Two-Factor Authentication
What is Two-Factor Authentication?
Access Control with Two-Factor Authentication is a form of access control that requires, you guessed it, two factors of data to be authenticated. As Wikipedia so graciously declares in daily life it’s having a debit card and a pin. Online it’s a bit more complicated, but not much more. When creating an account with almost any online provider you are asked to create a password. This is the first layer of authentication. An online password is a unique arrangement of characters the user decides to create in order protect their account. Passwords are usually made under some sort of strict guidelines such as, have a capital letter, add a number, and for the love of god add a special character (just in case you were in fact born yesterday).
How to Become Authenticated
After the password, which is almost every cyber secure website’s first layer of access control within Two-Factor Authentication, comes another, often varying layer of authentication. Now, this is where a site can get creative, or shall I say have an option to choose between many industry standards. A few of the most common options involve typing in your phone number to receive an SMS message containing a numeric or alphanumeric code. The site will then provide a space for you to type in the code you just received.
In this case, that was your second form of authentication since that phone number should be unique to you. Another way sites like to create a second layer of authentication is by having you answer a few preselected questions after you create your username and password. Things along the lines of, “What is your Grandmother’s name?”, “What was your first car?”, “What is the street you grew up on?”, or “What was your first pet’s name?”.
Personally, I dislike the line of questioning often provided as it often assumes you had things growing up or takes you to a memory you may or may not enjoy. I think typing in your own question and answer would be much more pleasant for the user and still is quite easy to code. After completing that line of questioning your answers are saved to your profile and the next time you log in after entering your username and password one of these questions will pop up. After you provide the correct answer, you will be Two-Factor Authenticated!
Always Evaluate Your Access Control Guidelines
Those were just a few of the most common methods of Two-Factor Authentication, but there’s plenty more. It all stems from having another unique piece of information on top of a password. The reason for all this jazz is to protect yourself from hackers. At the end of the day after a bit of time, this method will become obsolete, and we’ll be using Multi-Factor Authentication. As this wonderful article lays out, I also wonder if we’re really any safer with Two-Factor Authentication than just having a really good long passphrase. Either way, after one layer of Authentication it’s just living in fear of an attack in my humble opinion. Netflix, stay strong with your single layer of Authentication!