And why aren’t passwords good enough?
Prior to tending to the inquiry ‘what is two-factor verification’ or ‘what is 2FA,’ we should consider why it’s imperative to do all that you can to improve your online account security. With such a large amount of our lives occurring on cell phones and PCs, it’s no big surprise our computerized accounts have become a magnet for hoodlums. Malevolent assaults against governments, organizations, and people are increasingly normal. What’s more, there are no signs that the hacks, information breaks, and different types of cybercrime are easing back down!
Fortunately, it’s easy for organizations to add an additional degree of protection to client accounts as two-factor verification, likewise generally alluded to as 2FA.
Rise in Cybercrime Requires Stronger Security With 2FA
In recent years, we’ve witnessed a massive increase in the number of websites losing personal data of their users. And as cybercrime gets more sophisticated, companies find their old security systems are no match for modern threats and attacks. Sometimes it’s simple human error that has left them exposed. And it’s not just user trust that can be damaged. All types of organizations—global companies, small businesses, start-ups, and even non-profits—can suffer severe financial and reputational loss.
For consumers, the after-effects of targeted hack or identity theft can be devastating. Stolen credentials are used to secure fake credit cards and fund shopping sprees, which can damage a victim’s credit rating. And entire bank and cryptocurrency accounts can be drained overnight. A recent study revealed that in 2016 over $16 billion was taken from 15.4 million U.S. consumers. Even more incredible, identify thieves stole over $107 billion in the past six years alone.
Clearly, online sites and apps must offer tighter security. And, whenever possible, consumers should get in the habit of protecting themselves with something that’s stronger than just a password. For many, that extra level of security is two-factor authentication.
Passwords: Historically Bad But Still In Use
How and when did passwords get so vulnerable? Back in 1961, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS). To make sure everyone had an equal chance to use the computer, MIT required all students to log in with a secure password. Soon enough, students figured out that they could hack the system, print out the passwords, and hog more computer time.
Despite this, and the fact that there are much more secure alternatives, usernames and passwords remain the most common form of user authentication. The general rule of thumb is that a password should be something only you know while being difficult for anyone else to guess. And while using passwords is better than having no protection at all, they’re not foolproof. Here’s why:
- Humans have lousy memories. A recent report looked at over 1.4 billion stolen passwords and found that most were embarrassingly simple. Among the worst are “111111,” “123456,” “123456789,” “qwerty,” and “password.” While these are easy to remember, any decent hacker could crack these simple passwords in no time.
- Too many accounts: As users get more comfortable with doing everything online, they open more and more accounts. This eventually creates too many passwords to remember and paves the way for a dangerous habit: password recycling. Here’s why hackers love this trend: it takes just seconds for hacking software to test thousands of stolen sign-in credentials against popular online banks and shopping sites. If a username and password pair is recycled, it’s extremely likely it’ll unlock plenty of other lucrative accounts.
- Security fatigue sets in: To protect themselves, some consumers try to make it harder for attackers by creating more complex passwords and passphrases. But with so many data breaches flooding the dark web with user information, many just give up and fall back to using weak passwords across multiple accounts.