The extraordinary value of 2FA and SMS for digital security

The extraordinary value of 2FA and SMS for digital security

Living in a digitally saturated world provides us with infinite conveniences, entertainment, and choice. However, a tech-driven society also has its pitfalls and complications, namely, the increased need for robust digital security.

With much of our life playing out online and personal data managed from our phones, it’s no surprise that digital accounts are a magnet for hackers and cybercriminals. As instances of phishing, social engineering, and other cyber attacks rise, governments, businesses, and individuals must take control of their tech security. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that the annual global cost of cybercrime will reach $6 trillion in 2021 compared to the $3 trillion in 2015.

In many cases, single-factor security measures such as passwords are not enough. 81% of security breaches are due to weak or reused passwords. And with 51% of people using the same password for multiple accounts, it’s no wonder they’re incredibly susceptible to hacking. On the other hand, 2FA in the form of recovery phone numbers can block up to 99% of bulk phishing attacks.

Fortunately, business owners can protect themselves by enabling Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) with SMS APIs and integrations on a range of platforms. It’s a simple yet robust method that can elevate online security for businesses, customers, and individuals.

Related: 'What do smishing, spoofing, and social engineering have in common?'

What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?

2FA, also known as Dual Factor Authentication, is a subset of multi-factor authentication. It provides an additional layer of security for account sign-ups and system verification and can go by a few different names like Two-Step Verification (2SV) and login approval.

Two independent verification measures better protect a user’s credentials and the information accessible to the user. Going beyond the protection level afforded by single-factor verification such as usernames and passwords.

2FA can protect against several security threats, such as:

  • Identity theft
  • Fraudulent purchases
  • Data breaches
  • Account violation

One-Time Passwords (OTP)

With 2FA via SMS, you and your clients can verify accounts quickly with the immediate delivery of One-Time Passwords (OTP). As 91% of Americans always have their smartphones in arm’s reach, SMS is the most accessible and immediate security protocol. Sign-up and log-in processes are seamless with a sophisticated SMS gateway that ensures prompt delivery of OTPs.

OTPs or token codes are unique numeric codes sent as automatic SMS to a user’s chosen mobile number in the log-in process. The OTP must then be entered into the site or application by the individual to verify their right to access and use an account. The time-sensitive nature of OTPs means it often used to approve and confirm online payments within a short period.

Companies often use email to send OTPs, but it is not always as effective as SMS. An experiment conducted by Google revealed that 34% of users could not remember their recovery email addresses. Google also utilizes on-device prompts alongside SMS 2FA, where users tap the prompt sent to their phone asking if they’re trying to sign in. Google’s study found that both on-device prompts and SMS 2FA prevented 100% of automated attacks.

Related: 'Is Apple moving to standardize the SMS OTP format?'

2FA on MXT

2FA is an essential security precaution for any online platform or system. But in the form of unique SMS codes, 2FA is an exceptionally efficient and uncomplicated way to prevent account breaches.

SMS API and plugins can enable 2FA on websites, software, and apps to tighten the security of customer accounts. Brands that send OTPs to customers experience benefits such as:

  • Secure customer data
  • Fraud detection and alerts
  • Increased customer trust and satisfaction
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance

Related: 'SMSGlobal's latest plugin for WordPress'

Customers utilizing SMSGlobal’s trusted and dynamic SMS platform can add an extra layer of security to their accounts, guaranteeing data protection for users and their customers. Not only can you integrate SMS OTP to your business’s cybersecurity efforts, but you can rest assured that your MXT account is safe with 2FA capabilities. Providing our esteemed clients with powerful account security is a top priority at SMSGlobal.

It’s easy to activate 2FA on your MXT account with these simple steps:

  1. Input your username and password into MXT to login.
  2. Ensure the phone number in ‘Contact Information’ is correct.
  3. Click on the cog icon in the top right corner of your dashboard.
  4. In the drop-down menu, underneath ‘Settings,’ select ‘SMS Settings.’
  5. Enable 2FA by clicking on the toggle under ‘Two Factor Authentication.’
  6. Select ‘Update Settings’ at the bottom of the page to save.
  7. Once enabled, an OTP will be sent to your phone every time you log in to MXT to verify your account.

2FA is amplifying global cybersecurity

Call Of Duty

Banks, insurance providers, and online retailers commonly use 2FA for upgraded security. But now 2FA is also paving the way to screen cheaters in online video games. Call Of Duty: Warzone now has mandatory 2FA on the free PC version. The game’s developers, Infinity Ward, introduced the security feature in early May to deter cheaters from playing.

Infinity Ward has banned 70,000 cheaters from Warzone, following other recent security updates. Now, with the new 2FA restrictions, Warzone players must log in using a unique SMS code.

Infinity Ward is also using the security feature as an anti-cheating mechanism, with the ability to link phone numbers to known cheaters. Once a cheater is banned, they cannot create additional accounts with the same phone number. Cheaters have expressed their frustration on online gaming forums, stating that accounts linked to their phone number had been “shadowbanned.” These posts reveal the new security measures to be effective thus far in the prevention of account abuse and cheating.

Google

Earlier in May, Google notified its Nest community of a new mandatory 2FA protocol. New logins to Nest accounts will now require authentication via a six-digit emailed code. Users who haven’t migrated their Nest accounts with a Google email also have the option of enabling SMS 2FA.

Google Nest is a line of smart home devices that includes the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Hello Doorbell, and indoor and outdoor Nest Cameras. Nest Cameras were the victim of several attacks over the past year, including the hijacking of its in-built speakers. In many of these instances, compromised usernames and passwords were the cause of the hacks, allowing hackers to log in and control devices. With the introduction of new security systems, Google aims to avoid such breaches in the future.

Alongside email 2FA, Google has also encouraged Nest users to implement additional security steps, including:

  • Enabling SMS 2FA through the Nest app
  • Creating strong and unique passwords
  • Migrating to a Google account if it suits the individual

SMS 2FA and beyond

As 43% of all data breaches are targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, strengthening your tech security is imperative. With the implementation of 2FA, companies can save themselves time and costs related to account violations. While highly accessible and user-friendly, it remains secure in safeguarding against hacking and data violations.

However, for larger businesses and some individuals, OTP 2FA may not wholly satisfy security needs. Utilizing multiple layers of security and improvements to current OTP 2FA protocols can enhance 2FA as we know it.

Apple

Apple’s engineers (Webkit) have proposed to standardize the SMS OTP format to ensure the efficiency and security of SMS OTP retrieval. SMS OTP retrieval means users don’t have to access their text messages as the OTP automatically appears in their keyboard.

The project plans to build a uniform layout for SMS OTP and autofill features across devices. Using a common text format would automate the retrieval process without the need for any user interaction. Apps such as mobile browsers could automatically retrieve the SMS code as soon as it is received and submit it to the correct website.

Automating this system would make OTP retrieval less susceptible to phishing attacks that prompt users to enter SMS codes into fraudulent websites. Google has backed the proposal, however, Mozilla Firefox has yet to express their interest.

Yubikey

Yubikey is a popular hardware authentication device that supports OTPs. It is a key-shaped fob that plugs into a user’s computer and is used to complete the second stage of 2FA along with a password.

While hackers can steal passwords and intercept OTPs sent to a device, it is much harder to snatch a physical key. They’re battery-free, water-resistant, durable, and are available in a variety of sizes to fulfill a range of security requirements. Several high-profile companies allow login via Yubikey such as:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Dropbox
  • Mac
  • Windows PC

A Yubikey is a perfect supplement to other 2FA methods. If you lose yours or a specific site doesn’t support Yubikey, on-device 2FA prompts or SMS 2FA remain effective and trusted authentication methods.