Two-factor authentication: what it is, how to use it and where it can be used

Do you want your customers to be confident when they do business with you? We are all used to being prompted for a username and password when we log on to a website, but this identification method is not risk-free, and many companies have suffered cyber-attacks that have jeopardised the security of thousands of customers. Two-factor authentication can be used for additional security. In this post, we tell you what it consists of, how it is used and in what cases it can be used.We have information on various websites and bank account information that does not have the same relevance as information on a social network. In this regard, according to Forbes, companies in financial services are subject to cyber-attacks 300 times more often than companies in other industries. In this scenario, two-factor authentication is an additional element that can further protect the most sensitive information.

Business Cybersecurity Threats

A multitude of cyber-security threats exist today and can cause severe damage to businesses and their customers. According to Allianz’s 2020 Risk Barometer Report, cyber is, for the first time, the leading global risk for companies, relegating risks such as loss of profit to lower positions.

Some common corporate cybersecurity incidents include identity theft, data leakage or theft of information, publication of negative information, and unconsented use of IPR. All these dangers may generate a bad image for the company and non-compliance with the Organic Law on Data Protection.

In addition, several behaviours lead to cybersecurity threats in businesses, including the following:

  • Use of external (USB) devices on the corporate PC. It is best to have the USB scanned or formatted to prevent the corporate computer from being infected to avoid problems. Cloud storage can be an alternative to USB.
  • Use of social networks on company PCs. The exchange of messages on social networks or the download of files can put the company’s equipment at risk.
  • A public wifi network to access corporate email, for example, can endanger sensitive customer and company data.
  • Do not block the equipment or leave the session open To prevent the danger of the device being accessed or used by anyone, and it is recommended to set up an automatic blocking system.
  • Downloading files without first scanning them. The email inbox is still one of the biggest threats to businesses. It is common to download files suspected of viruses, which may infect your computer and expose sensitive data. To prevent this situation, it is recommended to scan any file you receive with an antivirus before downloading it.
  • Inefficient management of passwords and permissions. In this context, the responsibility lies with the employee and the company. On the one hand, the company should establish specific levels of security to prevent anyone from accessing all types of information; on the other hand, it is recommended that employees be trained to avoid actions such as not logging out of their emails, leaving a website open or checking the “remember password” option in the browser, for example. This poses a risk as other people might take the chance to get hold of the data and use it.

Thus, avoiding cybersecurity threats depends on companies and employees, and it is necessary to be aware of what we face with minor mistakes that endanger essential company data.

What is two-factor authentication?

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, companies have had to speed up their digital transformation, and a series of risks have arisen that might affect their business; thus, they have started to use tools that provide greater security and give employees and customers more confidence. The use of two-factor authentication has become widespread, but what is it, when is it used, how is it applied?

Two-factor authentication means verifying through two different mechanisms that the person trying to log on to a website or perform an action is who they claim to be. In other words, it adds a layer of security that makes a cyber-attack more cumbersome. In the case of, it is a one time password that is randomly generated on-demand, sent to the user by SMS and used together with the user’s ID and password.

As we mentioned before, the usual method of logging on to a website is to use:

  •  A user that identifies the person, that is to say, it tells the system who that person is.
  • The password that authenticates the user, i.e. allows verifying that the person is who they say they are

However, when two-factor authentication is used, an additional layer of authentication is added, consisting of a code that the user receives via SMS or email or a coordinate card. Many banks and other financial institutions have been using two-factor authentication for some time, but with the widespread use of the internet for a broad range of transactions, an increasing number of companies in many different sectors are now using this method.

How does two-factor authentication work?

The use of two-factor authentication is effortless:

  • The user logs in to the login screen of the service they want to enter.
  • They enter their username and password on the website (these are details they already know)
  • Next, they are asked to authenticate, and the system will send them an SMS to their mobile phone with a code that they will have to enter on the login page. Additionally, a third security factor could be introduced, e.g. a device that identifies the person by fingerprint, iris or facial recognition.
  • Finally, the user will be able to log on to the website in a secure way.

Is it a 100% reliable method?

Two-factor authentication is more reliable than passwords alone and a more straightforward method to use than biometric identification; however, cybercriminals could still carry out an attack, but they would undoubtedly have a much tougher time because this type of authentication offers additional protection to both users and companies. Therefore, two-factor authentication deters cybercriminals and reduces risks.

What are the benefits of two-factor authentication?

We have seen some of the benefits of two-factor authentication, among which we can highlight the following:

  • Two-factor authentication allows employees in organisations to work remotely and securely, as corporate applications can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
  • It minimises fraud and enhances trust. When a case of company-related fraud occurs, customers lose confidence, and the company’s relationship could come to an end.
  •  It is a secure system because the SMS sender does not know the code sent or the provider where it was generated. Moreover, if a hacker had access to the username and password, they would not be able to access the customer’s data as they did not receive the code.
  •  It is a straightforward system as there is no need to install an application on the mobile or software on the computer, you receive an SMS, and all handsets can receive them.
  • The service can be seamlessly integrated into the company’s applications through APIs at no additional registration or licensing cost.

In the two-factor authentication system, you can set the following parameters:

  • The expiry date.
  • The maximum number of attempts.
  • The format of the code.
  • The sender of the SMS.
  • The sending by Registered SMS.
  • The name and tax identification number of the co
  • The language of the documentary evidence in a Registered SMS.

When is two-factor authentication used?

As previously mentioned, it is not always necessary to use two-factor authentication, but it is essential to use it when it comes into play:

  • Users’ payment details, e.g. banks, online shops, etc.
  • When passwords from one site are used to login to another, such as using Facebook or Google to log in to other sites.
  • A cloud service where sensitive company information is stored. For example, there may be a company where employees work remotely and need to remotely access the company’s server. By using two-factor authentication, login becomes more secure, and the information is  strongly protected
  • A social network (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Linkedin, among others) or messaging service is frequently used.

As a result, business owners need to be aware that cybersecurity threats exist and can pose severe damage to the business, so using additional layers of security, such as that provided by two-factor authentication, is essential to build trust with customers and potential customers and to protect the company’s image and its reputation.

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