Have you ever heard of two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA? It’s also sometimes referred to as two-step verification or dual-factor authentication, is a security process in which end users provide two different authentication factors to verify themselves.
What are authentication factors?
There are several ways in which someone can be authenticated using more than one authentication method. Currently, most authentication methods rely on knowledge factors, such as a traditional password, while two-factor authentication methods add either a possession factor or an inherence factor.
Authentication factors, listed in approximate order of adoption for computing, include the following:
- A knowledge factor is something the user knows, such as a password, a personal identification number (PIN) or some other type of shared secret.
- A possession factor is something the user has, such as an ID card, a security token, a cellphone, a mobile device or a smartphone app, to approve authentication requests.
- A biometric factor, also known as an inherence factor, is something inherent in the user’s physical self. These may be personal attributes mapped from physical characteristics, such as fingerprints authenticated through a fingerprint reader. Other commonly used inherence factors include facial and voice recognition or behavioral biometrics, such as keystroke dynamics, gait or speech patterns.
- A location factor is usually denoted by the location from which an authentication attempt is being made. This can be enforced by limiting authentication attempts to specific devices in a particular location or by tracking the geographic source of an authentication attempt based on the source Internet Protocol address or some other geolocation information, such as Global Positioning System (GPS) data, derived from the user’s mobile phone or other device.
- A time factor restricts user authentication to a specific time window in which logging on is permitted and restricts access to the system outside of that window.
The majority of two-factor authentication methods rely on the first three authentication factors, though systems requiring greater security may use them to implement multifactor authentication (MFA), which can rely on two or more independent credentials for more secure authentication.
You can learn more about 2FA by checking out this video from PC Mag.