What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) protects online accounts by imposing two methods of user identification when a log-in is attempted. In addition to the traditional username and password, another piece of evidence – or factor – is required for verification, usually a passcode from a personal device.

Two-Factor Authentication is a better way to protect online accounts. Besides entering the password into your account you also have to enter an additional code that you generate through a personal device.

When you have to enter only your username and one password, that's considered a single-factor authentication. 2FA requires the user to have two out of three types of credentials before being able to access an account.

Two-Factor Authentication is the most effective and common type of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for businesses to protect their systems and customers’ online accounts from hacking, spamming, data theft, and more. It was pioneered by financial institutions – and for good reason. Every day, cybercriminals make millions of attempts to exploit weak or stolen credentials such as usernames and passwords, but MFA can block 99.9% of these compromise attacks.

What Is an Example of 2FA?

The One-Time Password (OTP) is the best-known form of Two-Factor Authentication – and the terms are often used synonymously. As the name suggests, OTPs are security codes generated for single log-in attempts.

The first generation of OTPs were six-digit numbers sent as SMS messages, but other types have emerged. The most widespread of these are push notifications sent to an app on a personal device.

OTPs can also be used beyond Two-Factor Authentication as an autonomous security mechanism where the traditional password is obsolete. Instead, an OTP is triggered every time a known user presents himself. This approach removes the risk involved in storing a password with the web service provider. In the event of a security breach, attackers go home empty-handed.

What Are the Benefits of 2FA?

Reducing fraud and identity theft are not the only benefits of 2FA. The additional layer of security increases customer trust; most people understand that the minor effort and occasional irritation of having to present an OTP are outweighed by the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your details are secure.

2FA also secures compliance with industry standards in health, ,ecommerce, education, finance, and government bodies.

The increased security gained from 2FA bears down on operating costs because there is a cost in notifying customers that fraud may have occurred, and in dealing with cases of actual malfeasance and identity theft. The upfront investment in Two-Factor Authentication, whether mandated or not, soon pays for itself in reduced instances of suspected or real fraud.

How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

We are all familiar with 2FA systems through our banks, tax authorities, and eCommerce transactions. But how does the business that is verifying our identity “talk” to the platform orchestrating passcodes and push notifications?

Two-Factor authentication works according to the same principle on almost every website: After typing your login name and password you need to enter an additional code or text that you receive via SMS or an additional app. Only after entering this extra code, you get access to the secure part of the site.

Two-factor authentication infrastructures use an API to integrate with business apps or websites. Through the API interface, the app or site “knows” whether an entered OTP is correct or not. Additional safeguards verify that the password had not elapsed before it was entered.

How Can I set up 2FA for my business?

Digital giants such as Microsoft or Google have their proprietary systems of Two-Factor Authentication, but the vast majority of businesses that want to secure account logins use 2FA service providers. These offer secure platforms for receiving or initiating OTP requests, sending the OTP as a text or through another channel, and verifying the OTP was entered correctly through the API as we described.

Two-Factor Authentication via CM.com

With CM.com’s Two-Factor Authentication API, you can easily add an additional security layer beyond a username and password combination, making user credentials much more difficult to crack.

Our 2FA solution uses one-time passwords (OTPs) to authenticate users, secure account logins, and safeguard transactions via SMS (text message) or voice (phone call). SMS messages have an average open rate of 98% in less than 30 seconds, making them reliable and easily accessible for users. With OTPs, our two-factor authentication platform can improve the customer login experience in just one click.

Related Products and Solutions

Is this region a better fit for you?
close icon