What is Two-Factor Authentication and Why Does it Matter?
It seems every time you turn on the news these days there’s a report on yet another massive cyber attack. From Russia attempting to hack into U.S. elections, to a ransomware attack on a 911 center in Atlanta just last week, it’s clear that cyber security will be a significant topic for all of us, no matter our industry, in the coming years.
As each industry reacts to more frequent and severe attacks, many of us are left wondering: What can I do to prevent this from happening to me?
One of the best ways to strengthen your online security is to use two-factor authentication every time you log in to your personal and work accounts.
Most of us understand the importance of a strong password, but the special character requirement can only do so much (and oftentimes, people’s passwords are not as strong as they think they are).
Strong passwords are a good defense, but they shouldn’t be the only thing users rely on to protect their information.
Imagine that your username and password are a lock on your front door. It’s a good lock, but maybe you live in a neighborhood with high crime rates and want a way to keep your children safer at night. You’d feel more comfortable with another line of defense. So you consider putting a second lock on that door, or even installing a security camera.
Like having two deadbolts on your front door, two-factor authentication is a security measure that can help protect your data because it adds that critical second barrier of defense.
What is Two-Factor Authentication?
You’re probably already familiar with 2FA, as the industry experts like to call it (you may even see it referred to second-factor, advanced authentication, or AA).
If you’ve ever logged in to your bank account or Facebook account from your phone, you’ve likely been asked to verify your identity by receiving a text message one-time PIN. The second step, the one that comes after entering your username and password, is that all-important second factor.
There are essentially three categories of second factor verification. “Something you know, something you have, and something you are.” The username and password combo are the thing you know. The second-factor one-time code is something you have. The “something you are”? That’s biometric information like fingerprints or facial recognition, which are also becoming more common in the IT security industry.
How Does 2FA Work?
It can sometimes be difficult to get an entire agency to understand the importance of 2FA and to adopt the systems necessary to implement it. This is especially true in governmental agencies where resources are strained.
One agency that has handled this very well is the Florida Department of Children and Families. In February this year they installed eAgent X2 — a two-factor authentication software — for 9,000 individual users who access the department’s sensitive victim and criminal information. The new system requires users to enter their regular username and password, then prompts them for a verification code.
What makes eAgent X2 so unique is that it offers more than just text message PIN retrieval. While some users may opt to receive the code through their cell phone, many may not feel comfortable linking personal devices with work information, so they can opt for other, self-administered, retrieval methods instead.
The digital token is a small device with a digital face that users can attach to their keychain. When the button is pressed, a randomized number appears on the screen, which can then be used to log in to the system. This solution is particularly cost-effective because it doesn’t require an agency to provide cell phones for each of its employees.
This lower-tech, higher cost-efficiency solution comes in handy for those who work off the grid or travel frequently. The paper option is a business-card sized piece of paper with a number grid printed on the back. When a user is prompted to log in to their system, they are instructed to enter the code in Column A, Row 9, for example.
eAgent X2 also offers a mobile app that can generate a random PIN for you. You simply log in to the free app and the PIN code is ready to be entered in to the login screen.
With all of these options, users are able to take advantage of the solution that fits their individual work style. Of course, the importance of 2FA extends beyond logging into your work intranet. Your Facebook, Amazon, and Gmail accounts are all susceptible to cyber attacks. You can beef up your own security by enabling 2FA on all of your accounts. Find out how at turnon2fa.com.
Preparing For the Future
In the coming years, requirements for increased security will grow, especially in highly sensitive fields like the medical industry and law enforcement. Maybe in 15 years, we’ll all log in to our accounts with a retina scan, but for now, be sure to keep your passwords strong, and enable two-factor authentication any time you get the chance.
If you want to find out more about eAgent X2, download our Tech Sheet here.
Diverse Computing develops software for the criminal justice community. Over 1,700 agencies nationwide entrust us with the safety of their officers and communities every day, and that is a duty we take seriously. Recognized for our world-class customer support and exceptional company culture, we strive to be leaders in our industry and our community. Find out more about us at diversecomputing.com.