It might not seem like it, but two-step verification (aka two-factor authentication) is already a common aspect of our lives. For example, if you used your debit card today and entered your PIN, then you used two-step verification.
But, beyond adding a layer of security to financial transactions, it has many other uses as well, including a wide application across the digital aspect of our lives. Below you’ll learn about two-step verification in depth and understand why it’s important.
What is two-step verification?
Two-step verification is a widespread security protocol. It’s so common that most applications and services already have it baked into their settings.
Two-step verification goes by many names, including two-step authentication and two-factor authentication. But, whatever you see it being called, the process remains the same.
Now, there is a slight difference between the technical definition of two-step verification and two-factor verification.
With two-factor authentication, there are two different factors at play. You have your password and a secondary factor, like your phone or your fingerprint. With two-step verification, you only have a single factor, like your password, followed by a set of security questions.
However, these terms are used interchangeably and often refer to the same thing.
How two-step verification works
The process can be applied widely, but one of the primary forms of verification includes SMS verification. Let’s say you log in to your bank account website, and then a four-digit PIN is sent to your phone via text message. Once you receive the code, you enter it and can proceed with logging into your account.
With SMS-based two-step verification, the password you receive only has a short time frame where it functions as well. Whenever you need to log in, you’ll receive a new code. This might seem tedious, but an extra few seconds can mean the difference between a secure and compromised account.
Beyond SMS two-step authentication, there are a few additional methods of identity verification, including:
- Biometrics: This includes face, fingerprint, retina or voice recognition.
- Hardware: This is specific hardware, like a USB, designed with two-factor authentication in mind.
- Application: This is a particular application that generates a unique code across multiple different logins.
Why is two-step verification used?
It can be challenging to verify that people are who they say they are across the online space. Given the fact that nearly more than 100 million people were affected by identity theft last year, you can see why protecting your accounts is so important.
There are no bulletproof security protocols, but instead security best practices you can follow to elevate your levels of account protection.
For example, think about how you’d go about protecting your home. You can install an alarm-based security system, use cameras, add sensor-based lights around your home, and even get a large dog with a loud bark. All of these measures mean that your home is more secure, but it doesn’t guarantee that no one will ever try to break in.
The same goes for your online accounts. Plus, if your account does get targeted, it’ll be that much more challenging to break in.
Who should use two-step authentication?
Anyone interested in improving the levels of security across their online accounts should enable two-step verification.
It’s a process that’ll add a few minutes to your day (at the very most), and it’ll help protect your accounts from being hacked, and your identity from being compromised — a small price to pay for improved security.
This is especially true for accounts that have access to any personal financial information, like your bank, Amazon and even your GoDaddy account. Imagine the hassle of someone accessing your hosting or domains, and transferring them over to their name.
Different two-step verification methods available
There are many options, depending on the service you’re using. But here are the most commonly used approaches:
- SMS Text Message. You’ll receive a four to six-digit code via text, which you must enter to access your account.
- An Authenticator App. You use an app like Google Authenticator or Authy, which manages your security codes for you.
- A Hardware Security Key. You insert a physical hardware key into your computer, like Yubikey, which verifies your identity.
Pros of two-step verification
Two-step verification is a great way to enhance security across your online accounts. Here’s a quick look at some of its biggest advantages:
1. An easy-to-implement security protocol
Two-factor authentication is built into most services. Usually, all you have to do is turn it on within the program or application settings. Once it’s enabled, it’ll become a routine part of the login process for you or your team.
2. It’s inexpensive
As far as security is concerned, it’s a free solution to your security woes. If you upgrade to the hardware authentication level, then you’ll have to pay for the device, but otherwise, there usually aren’t any costs involved.
3. Protects your sensitive accounts
Finally, it’s a downright simple way to protect your accounts. Like we highlighted above, it isn’t foolproof. But, it is a big step that’ll help keep your information free from hackers and other prying eyes.
Cons of two-step verification
However, two-step verification isn’t perfect. Here are some of the main drawbacks of two-step verification. But as you’ll see they’re pretty negligible.
1. Slower login time
It won’t add that much time to the login process, but for some users, this might be a minor annoyance. However, using an authentication app or physical hardware can speed up the process.
2. Not 100% secure
No security solution is 100%. Beyond two-factor authentication, there are additional procedures you’ll want to have in place to secure your account, starting with a strong password.
3. Might be integration issues
SMS authentication is pretty standard and should work smoothly with most apps and services. But if you prefer the physical hardware or authentication app approach, then you might run into some compatibility issues.
Your password might not be as secure as you think. But even with a secure password, your accounts are still at risk. With two-step verification enabled whenever you enter your password you’ll be asked for an additional verification step (depending on the route you chose). Once you complete this, you can log in securely and access your account.