What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication (2 factor authentication or 2FA) is the authentication process where two of the three possible factors of authentication are combined.

The possible factors of authentication are:

  • something the user knows (e.g. a password, PIN code, or answer to secret question)
  • something the user has (e.g. a token, a mobile phone, a USB, a key fob)
  • something the user is (e.g. face or voice recognition, behavioral biometrics, fingerprint, retina or iris scan)

In internet security, the most used factors of authentication are: something the user has (e.g. a bank card) and something the user knows (e.g. a PIN code). This is two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is also sometimes referred to as "strong authentication", "2-Step verification" or "2FA".

How does Two-Factor Authentication work?

When you sign into your account, you will be prompted to authenticate with your user name and password. This becomes your first authentication factor.

For the second authentication factor, you can use a One-Time Password (OTP) token, an SMS sent to your mobile phone, a USB or key fob (e.g. something you have). When combined with your user name and password, the result is a stronger and more resilient layer of security.

Taking this extra step in the authentication process not only frustrates hackers, but also reduces your risk of becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft.

Why do I need Two-Factor Authentication?

Because passwords alone are simply not enough to stop today’s sophisticated attacks.

Two-factor authentication provides a secondary layer of security that makes it more difficult for hackers to access a person’s devices and online accounts. With two-factor authentication enabled, even if the hacker knows his victim’s password, the authentication will still fail.

Two-factor authentication also provides organizations with an additional level of access control to sensitive systems and online data and accounts, protecting that data from being compromised by hackers armed with stolen user passwords.

In sum, two-factor authentication can help to reduce your risk of exposure if/when your password is stolen or your email account has been compromised.

Where can I use Two-Factor Authentication?

You should use two-factor authentication for all of the following:

  • Online banking
  • Online shopping (Amazon, PayPal, Google Play)
  • Email (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook)
  • Cloud storage accounts (Dropbox, Box)
  • Accounts on social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Tumblr, Twitter)
  • Productivity apps (Evernote, Trello)
  • Password managers (LastPass)
  • Communication apps (MailChimp, Skype, Slack)

How do I get started?

VASCO’s two-factor authentication uses one-time password technology to secure user login and ensure only authenticated users gain access. VASCO offers a complete range of authentication solutions, including:

  • Software authentication
  • Mobile authenticators
  • SMS delivery
  • Hardware authentication
  • USB authenticators
  • Smart card readers
  • Biometric authentication
  • Push Notification

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