Being online can be stressful and scary. Hackers are always new ways to break into your accounts and steal important information like passwords and credit card numbers. But with the right technology in place, you can feel safe from this kind of intrusion. In this article, we’ll talk about two-factor authentication and how it keeps your information safe from the hands of internet thieves.
Even the most straightforward password can keep your online account safe by taking advantage of two-factor authentication. A growing number of websites now support this technique.
According to market researcher Splashdata, 123456 has been the most popular password for years – but if you use it, you shouldn’t be surprised if attackers can hack your online accounts without much effort, at least until you activate the increasingly available two-factor authentication (2FA). In this case, a password and username are not enough to successfully log in, but you also need a second, single-use password for that session. Such two-factor authentication is already widespread in online banking with the PIN/TAN system. The increased security is because hackers need to attack two devices simultaneously to succeed successfully.
Low inconvenience, high security
To use the 2FA system today, you usually need a smartphone or a special external device. For online banks, the latter may be a device provided by the parent bank, but web services increasingly rely on a special USB key compliant with the U2F (Universal 2nd Factor) standard. This uses an encryption method that has been certified as fully secure for the time being.
In the smartphone case, the access code is either sent by SMS or calculated for use in real-time by the application running on the phone, which is usually available for all major platforms. The latter is beneficial if you are on the move, as it can cost money to receive SMS when abroad, but you may also simply not have mobile access.
From our own experience, we can say that you rarely have to wait more than a minute for an SMS after entering your phone number. With an app-generated code, we don’t even have to wait for that, whether it’s a password calculated by the app, a QR code scan, or the U2F USB key mentioned above. The latter is perhaps the most secure, but unfortunately, it is still quite cumbersome to use in Hungary: Amazon, for example, only makes this system available on its US site, but if you set it up there, you can use it in its stores in the EU. Fortunately, there are no such restrictions with Google, where the only problem is getting the right USB key.
The U2F offers the best security, as there are already viruses on smartphones that can instantly transmit the code sent by SMS or displayed by the app. In this case, a sufficiently strong passphrase will still help to protect against it.
Did you know?
90% of your internet activity is tracked. That means private data such as passwords, account information, and credit card numbers are all being monitored. With a VPN, nobody can see your online activity. A VPN encrypts your connection and hides your physical location from snoopers. It also masks the sites that you visit by letting you appear to be in a different country.
Most people know that passwords are great for keeping you safe online, but it can be even more difficult to figure out what password is the smartest to use. With two-factor authentication, however, you get a little extra protection on your account.