Two-factor authentication, also called multiple-factor or multiple-step verification, is an authentication mechanism used to double-check that your identity is legitimate.
How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?
When you want to sign into your account, you are prompted to authenticate with a username and a password – that’s the first verification layer. Two-factor authentication works as an extra step in the process, a second security layer, that will reconfirm your identity.
Its purpose is to make attackers’ life harder and reduce fraud risks. If you already follow basic password security measures, two-factor authentication will make it even more difficult for cybercriminals to breach your account.
However, you shouldn’t expect it to work like a magic wand that will miraculously bulletproof your accounts. It can’t keep the bad guys away forever, but it does reduce their chance to succeed.
What Are Authentication Factors?
There are 3 main categories of authentication factors:
1. Something that you know – This could be a password, a PIN code or answer to a secret question.
2. Something that you have – This is always related to a physical device, such as a token, a mobile phone, a SIM, a USB stick, a key fob, an ID card.