Two-factor authentication (or, more generally, multi-factor authentication) is a method of validating the identity of a user, as part of an access control process, which requires more than one identifying factor. One of the most common and most popular examples of two-factor authentication (2FA) is the basic bank card and personal identification number (PIN) used to access cash machines.

Passwords are vulnerable

There’s a reason that banks require that two-step process before allowing you to get at your money, and it’s the same reason that is driving the broader adoption of two-factor authentication around the world. Basically, the old-fashioned password method isn’t working by itself anymore. Business after business has been compromised through easily guessable, hackable or resettable passwords. Because there’s a limit on both the motivation and the memory capacity of the average user, it’s a problem that isn’t going away. Multi-factor authentication is a solution that your company is probably going to adopt way sooner than you imagine.

How Two-Factor Authentication Is Coming To Dominate Security Systems

It wasn’t that long ago that two-factor authentication was something you only saw in spy movies. Then the wave hit the crypto-underground. Something you have plus something you know became the bare minimum for hackers. At the same time, businesses big enough to throw their weight around started implementing cryptographically solid two-factor systems. Phishing attacks, that made the vulnerability of password-only systems blatantly obvious, were coming into play.

Today, two-factor authentication is becoming mainstream, but it’s far from ubiquitous. The challenges in deploying secure two-factor systems are still too complicated for SMEs and SMBs, and there’s yet not much of a precedent yet to help their decision-makers. But things are set to change and quickly.

New Options For Multi-Factor Authentication Are Bringing Down Costs and Expanding Choices

With the explosion of smartphone use, it suddenly became much more practical to offer two-factor systems based on apps or even SMS messaging. Equally important, prominent platforms like Google, Amazon, and iCloud have started implementing two-factor authentication both selectively and automatically in certain situations. Try to log in to your iCloud account from a web browser on a new computer and you’ll be prompted to receive a code on one of your already-authenticated devices to verify your identity. For Google, you can choose to turn on 2-Step verification for your account to log in to all services at any time. These are added safeguards for those worried about the security of their cloud-based accounts.

Such practices are getting users used to two-step authentication processes in the normal course of their daily lives. More importantly, they’re providing a backend infrastructure that third parties (including SMBs and SMEs) can also use. allows you to log in to Google accounts securely, but also to any other online services that support Fast ID Online (FIDO). These online services include a growing array of banking, investment, gaming, computing, education, and social services, as well as many B2B sites that your company likely already uses.

How You’re Going to Implement Two-Factor Authentication in Your Business

There are a range of two factor authentication options, which unsurprisingly offer a range of security options, some more secure than others. But in the spirit of not being the most accessible network on the block to break into, even a basic implementation can be useful.

For companies that have already gone all-in on the cloud, a FIDO-based system is probably best and easiest. Since so many services are already adopting FIDO, you get a lot of protection for minimal upfront investment. There are also open-source packages for Linux and other Unix-based systems that will implement the U2F protocol – basically a plug in USB key. Although implementing these requires the usual dive into configuration files and daemons, it’s well within the capabilities of anyone already accustomed to administering Unix systems. These solutions can get implemented at both the server and the desktop level, an excellent solution for roaming laptops with sensitive data (although a network connection is required for the system to work). But it’s a solution that doesn’t require 100 percent coverage, so 2FA is the perfect candidate to rollout against highly sensitive services or data sources on a case-by-case basis.

2FA is still good to have

Adopting 2FA is well-known, popular cyber security advice to help us beef up the security and privacy of our accounts. Just be aware that 2FA is not hack-proof. But it’s still far better than having just a user name and password locking your account. We need to continue to explore better and more advanced forms of authentication to entirely secure our data. And we need to adapt our habits to face the change in the threat landscape and keep looking to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters.

Four Business Solutions

Your company probably will be implementing two-factor authentication shortly – or if not, you may well wish that you had. We can help you out. Four Business Solutions helps small and multi-national organisations enrich the way they work. From Supply Chain to Procurement and Contract Management, we have decades of experience helping companies forge ahead in the global market. If you’d like to find out more please call John O’Brien at Four Business Solutions on 0800 6250 025.

John O’Brien is the CEO at Four Business Solutions, global business consultants and software integrators providing business processes improvements in Finance, Supply Chain & Operations, across a broad range of industries.