Keeping it secure with 2 Factor Authentication

You might have heard of 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) and maybe even be forced to use it. But what is it, how does it work and how does it keep your information secure?

What is 2 Factor Authentication

2 Factor Authentication is an enhancement to your normal password system. It lets you use simpler, easier to remember passwords by requiring a second “factor” to authenticate you to your computer, a website, internet banking or other application. The second factor can be a number of things – a code generated from a phone or a token, a swipe card or RFID chip, a USB token or some biometric information like your fingerprint or Face.

Basically, the idea is to improve your security by requiring two things that are unique to you and that only you should have.

Why do I need it?

Security on the internet and computers is becoming increasingly hard. Computers are getting really good at guessing passwords. Because people find passwords hard to remember, they are likely to use the same password in multiple websites or systems; and if the password is compromised on one system it becomes available to hackers to use for other systems.

2FA attempts to stop this problem by not just requiring a password, but by requiring something that is unique to you, at the point in time when you are trying to log in. If someone wants to pretend to be you they need access to both your password and the one-time code that only you have access to.

Does it really offer better security?

Yes! It does! We’ve seen instances where using 2 Factor Authentication has saved organisations potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial fraud and protected access to sensitive information and protected devices when they have been lost, misplaced or stolen.

2 Factor Authentication usually comes with varying security settings. Many services allow you to trust a device for a period of time (usually 30 days) before requiring the second factor of authentication again. Some services require you to authenticate every time you log in with the second factor.

Sounds great. How do I get it?

2 Factor Authentication is becoming increasingly easy to set up. Many common web applications such as Google Apps (GMail) and Office 365 support it out of the box now. Using Microsoft Azure Active Directory you can integrate 2 Factor Authentication into your Windows logins, VPN connectivity or other external services you use.

Your internet banking probably already uses 2 Factor with a secure token, NetCode or SMS passwords. Many government services (such as my.gov.au) enforce 2 Factor Authentication with one time SMS codes or app-based tokens.

Once upon a time you needed RSA tokens and large budgets to get started with 2 Factor Auth. These days you can get away with a free authenticator app (such as the Google Authenticator available for iPhone and Android), a third party service (such as Authy) or a USB key (such as UbiKey) and some easy-to-use server software.

If you want to improve the security of your network, website or system, Real World can help you establish a 2 Factor policy and implement it throughout your existing systems, providing peace of mind for everything you do.

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