What is two-factor authentication? How it works?
In today’s world, where digital transformation has become an indispensable part of daily societal practices, access security is one of the building blocks that allow organizations to maintain sustainable workflows. The fact that organizations have hundreds of privileged accounts within their IT infrastructure makes it extremely important to properly control their access. Two-factor authentication is one way to control access to privileged accounts and prevent those accounts from turning into internal and external threats.
Two-factor authentication (2FA), which is emerging as an important part of privileged access management (PAM) solutions, helps organizations control transactions made by privileged accounts. This method plays an important role in preventing data breaches that may occur due to a lack of control. By preventing password sharing, 2FA secures access to areas where critical data stacks are kept, thanks to its advanced authentication features.
What is two-factor authentication?
Defined as a form of account security, two-factor authentication is used to increase the protection of accounts in the computer network. Adding a different dimension to traditional password methods, 2FA allows two different forms of identity authentication to verify the access request made for the privileged account. Traditional forms of authentication involve only one of the following steps:
- Fingerprint or Face ID
- Your password or a security question
- Your mobile phone or security key
Two-factor authentication requires verification of at least two of the factors mentioned above. For example, when you enter a password and simultaneously confirm a prompt on your phone, or enter a code that is sent to your email address or mobile number after entering your password, it means that you are transacting on a network that uses Two-Factor Authentication. On the other hand, asking you to enter a password and a security question at the same time is not considered part of 2FA. Because according to the logic of 2FA, the combined use of different types of authentication comes to the fore.
You can also think of 2FA as a second layer of security to verify your identity. 2FA, where Software OTP, Hardware OTP, Location-Based Authentication, Time-Based OTP, RADIUS and REST API interfaces are placed around One Time Password (OTP) feature, always supports organizations in verification of authorized access.
- OTP software: A one-time code generated by 2FA for your computer or smartphone.
- Hardware OTPs: A one-time code generated by a security device. To use this code, you must press the button on the device in question.
- Location-based authentication: It allows to verify the location of the user requesting privileged access.
- Time based OTP: A one-time code valid only for a certain period of time is sent to users. When the set time period expires, the validity period of the code also expires.
- RADIUS and REST API interfaces: They provide integration with third-party applications such as VPN gateways.
How does two-factor authentication work?
The two-factor authentication system has an operating principle that allows you to establish secure access management at every stage. The system passes the requested privileged access authorization to the target resources such as virtual servers, VPN gateways, databases and network devices to the authentication servers and then turns to the secondary authentication factors.
There are also system administrators and network specialists in 2FA, which successfully controls access via email, SMS, desktop apps, smartphones, and location-based authentication. While the system administrator controls secondary authentication factors, the network specialist plays a key role in the process of verifying the request for privileged access using direct access authorization to target resources.
The two-factor authentication system, where the network specialist can observe the entire flow, works as follows:
- First, the user connects to one of the target resources and enters the username and password. These target resources can be virtual servers, VPN gateways, databases, and network devices.
- In the second step, the target host to which the user connects verifies the information of the user requesting privileged access with the defined authentication server. The authentication server then requests a second authentication via 2FA.
- In the third step, the 2FA system generates a one-time use secure code. Then it sends the secure code it creates to the user via secondary authentication tools (email, SMS, mobile), or the user creates the same secure code offline using their smartphone .
- In the fourth step, the user enters the secure code. The secure code is usually generated to be reset in 30 seconds.
- In the fifth step, the target host sends the secure code to the 2FA administrator.
- In the last step, the system checks whether the secure code is valid. If valid, access is granted.
What are the benefits of two-factor authentication?
Two-factor authentication is very important for organizations to have an advanced privileged access management system. 2FA, which protects sensitive data held by organizations by controlling privileged access requests and helps prevent data breaches, also makes it easier to keep up with business transformation.
Nowadays, when remote access methods are at the forefront and many organizations have adopted the remote work model, 2FA allows organizations to take precautions against cyber attackers trying to infiltrate their IT infrastructure. Two-factor authentication, which also makes password management more secure, manages to provide end-to-end data security in the remote working model, where access control is more difficult.
It is possible to summarize the main advantages of the two-factor authentication method as follows:
- 2FA helps protect vital resources and critical data by reducing the likelihood of cyberattacks such as identity theft, phishing, and online fraud.
- The passwords that you share with your colleagues become unusable if you use the 2FA method and this greatly increases data security.
- It provides a high level of security even if the security code is weak or the security code has not expired.
- It uses location-based authentication and time restriction methods for secure access. Thus, two verification processes can be requested simultaneously from users.
- It allows users to define different types of cyber attack vectors and security levels. Thus, organizations can make new investments to improve the security of their IT infrastructure.
- It also supports the transmission of the one-time secure code to users’ devices, which enables the secondary verification process.
- Two-factor authentication takes advantage of out-of-band authentication methods. In this method, user information is subject to secondary verification via a secure code sent over an independent communication tunnel (email or SMS).
If you want to use an advanced PAM product that includes a two-factor authentication solution, you can check out our Privileged Access Management product, OnlyConnectwhich is among the most complete PAM solutions in the world by being included in the Omdia universe: Selection of a privileged access management solution, 2021-22 Report, facilitates the protection of critical data by providing end-to-end data and access security with all its modules, especially 2FA. Thus, cases of data breaches can be safely avoided. As part of the Single Connect family of products, 2FA plays an important role in protecting authorized accounts and sensitive data, helping you create a high-level control mechanism.
If you have any questions about the Single Connect with Two-Factor Authentication module and want to know in detail the benefits of our product for your organization, you can contactmembers of our team of experts.