2FA is an extra layer of security used to make sure that people trying to gain access to an online account are who they say they are.
First, a user will enter their username and a password. Then, instead of immediately gaining access, they will be required to provide another piece of information. This second factor could come from one of the following categories:
- Something you know: This could be a personal identification number (PIN), a password, answers to “secret questions” or a specific keystroke pattern
- Something you have: Typically, a user would have something in their possession, like a credit card, a smartphone, or a small hardware token
- Something you are: This category is a little more advanced, and might include biometric pattern of a fingerprint, an iris scan, or a voice print
With 2FA, a potential compromise of just one of these factors won’t unlock the account. Even if your password is stolen or your phone is lost, the chances of someone else having your second-factor information is highly unlikely. Looking at it from another angle, if a consumer uses 2FA correctly, websites and apps can be more confident of the user’s identity, and unlock the account.
There are different types of 2FA:
- Hardware tokens
- Push notification