Logging in with two-factor authentication involves a second step to authenticate yourself. Instead of only inserting your username and password, you must also prove your identity in some other way. The second step in two-factor authentication can involve a code sent to your phone with a text message, a personal question only you can answer, your fingerprint, or a mobile app, for instance.
Two-factor authentication is sometimes also called two-step authentication, two-factor verification, or simply 2FA. The term MFA or multi-factor authentication is used to refer to methods of authentication that involve two steps or more. 2FA and MFA improve your online security by making it more difficult for hackers to access your accounts and steal private information.
When logging into an account, the user’s identity is traditionally confirmed with a username and password. Using a strong password takes you a long way, but even a password does not protect you if it gets stolen. With tools and methods to hack or steal login credentials, a password and username are no longer enough to protect your personal data.
The username is often your email address and it is usually visible to everyone. Therefore, it is not difficult to guess or find out. And let’s face it, it is often much easier to use the same password for several accounts or choose a password that is simple and easy to remember. When the same password is used on more than one account, criminals can easily access many accounts at the same time. Consider using a password manager to help generate and store strong passwords.
The methods of two-factor authentication can be divided into three categories:
In order to prevent their users’ accounts from getting hacked, many online services and websites have adopted two-factor authentication. However, in many cases, two-factor authentication is not on by default. Instead, it is up to the user to switch it on manually from the account settings. The way 2FA is turned on in each service and how the authentication works in practice depends on the service. For example, 2FA may be required only when logging in to a new device or every time the user tries to log in to their account.
For maximum protection, we recommend enabling two-factor authentication on as many user accounts as possible. Unfortunately, not all services offer two-factor authentication yet, so you will have to rely on using a strong and unique password for logging in.
The methods and tools used by online criminals and scammers are constantly getting more nuanced. Therefore you must ensure that no one but you can log into your accounts and access your valuable information. Although two-factor authentication may seem complicated, it is a simple way to improve your safety online. Here’s how 2FA can help you stay safe:
Based on the three categories, there are many methods used in multi-factor authentication.
Although 2FA improves the protection of accounts online and makes hacking into your accounts more difficult, there are still ways for online criminals to bypass two-factor authentication.
In social engineering, online criminals exploit one of the weakest links in people’s cyber security: the victims themselves. Manipulation of users to steal their sensitive information and gain access to their accounts is known as social engineering. One common method of social engineering is phishing. It involves messages and emails to trick people into giving away confidential information or infecting the victim’s device with malware.
To bypass two-factor authentication, an online criminal could impersonate a trusted authority and make up an excuse for why the victim should give away their security code. In case the attacker has already obtained the victim’s username and password, they are able to break into the account using the 2FA code.
In cyber security, brute force attacks refer to repeated attempts to log in to an account. This is done most often with some kind of software that tries to guess an account’s password. In case there is no limit to how many times an attacker can input an incorrect password, sooner or later they will crack the code, in case the password is not secure enough. The longer and more complex the password, the longer it takes to break it with brute force.
The same applies to 2FA codes. Especially if the code is short, only four to six numbers, the code can be cracked using this method. To prevent this, the code might be active for only a short time or the authentication is limited by only a few failed attempts.
Many methods of user authentication generate a token used for authentication on the spot. However, in some cases, there can be a list of tokens generated in advance. The hacker needs to know which token to use and they can bypass two-factor authentication. However, the hacker needs to first get the victim’s username and password as well.
Online criminals can use malware to bypass two-factor authentication and access the victim’s online banking account, for instance. Some advanced Android Banking Trojans are capable of impersonating legitimate banking apps and trick the victim into authenticating the criminal’s access themselves. In addition to online banking, similar malware causes harm in many cryptocurrency services.
Changing the victim’s privacy settings
The security code or token used for 2FA is often sent to the user’s phone with a text message. However, online criminals can exploit this method of authentication if they are able to change the user’s security settings. Hackers can change the phone number to which the security code is sent. Instead of the account’s real owner receiving the security code needed for authentication, the code is sent to the criminals who can then use it to access the victim’s account.
Account takeover is unfortunately only one of many online threats. That is why you need an advanced cyber security solution to protect you from malware, hacking and other dangers online. F‑Secure TOTAL not only comes with the tools to manage your passwords and warn you if your identity is at risk. It also offers an antivirus program to fend off viruses as well as a VPN to protect your privacy online. Try F‑Secure TOTAL for free and stay safe on the internet.