How Two-Factor Authentication Can Keep Your Business Systems Safe
by Stephanie Faris on Monday, November 30 6:00
When computers first became mainstream in offices around the country, a password seemed sufficient to keep information secure. Often employees would have one password that they entered when they powered their computers on each day. Nobody worried about locking their workstations on lunch breaks or keeping those passwords safe from anyone else who passed by their desks on a daily basis.
But over the past couple of decades, businesses have realized the importance of passwords in securing their devices and networks. This is especially true as mobile devices increase the risks within an organization. In response, businesses have put strict password policies in place, requiring long, complex passwords for software and device logins. They ve locked their mobile devices down to be remotely wipeable and taught employees responsible behaviors. However, data breaches still occur on a regular basis, so it's important that businesses prepare.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of protection for a business s applications and devices. Instead of merely entering a series of characters on a keyboard, two-factor authentication requires an additional way to ensure a user is authorized to use a piece of software or hardware. Two-factor authentication combines something you know with a second verification method that is more difficult to compromise. The something you know is usually the password the employee enters, while the second part is often something that can only come from the physical presence of the device or the person using it.
The second layer of two-factor authentication is often attached to the device itself. A system can be set up to verify that the password is being entered on an authorized device. For mobile devices and other equipment types, an app can also be installed that provides this verification. This type of authentication can also be done through the use of a USB drive. This type of authentication can be the easiest, but it s designed to work solely for app access, since it protects only against someone logging into a business s apps using an unauthorized device. Hardware authentication can be trickier.
Many experts predict biometrics as the future of two-factor authentication, but the technology already exists. Mobile devices already use fingerprint authentication to get past their lock screens, but the same ease-of-use can be applied to laptops, desktops, and servers. Some Windows machines have shipped with fingerprint readers on them, but some basic configuration will need to be done to make it work.
Instead of fingerprints, some technologists are pushing for eye-based verification. One company already provides this software for smartphones, allowing users to authenticate the same way they would snap a selfie. Biometrics in general can be problematic, however, since even the slightest change in a person s fingertips or eyes could make the device inaccessible. It s important, if your business looks into these options, to make sure you have a backup plan in case someone can t get logged in.
With two-factor authentication, a business can keep its systems safe with minimal inconvenience to employees. As the technology grows more sophisticated, businesses will be able to easily authenticate every user that accesses its devices and systems, giving criminals little hope of getting past its safeguards.