Welcome to 2017, where security is more important than ever before when it comes to computer systems and technology platforms. There was a time when a password was enough to protect all your important information. Do you remember the 90’s? How often did you hear: “You can’t get in, you don’t know the password” or “I have my files password protected!”. Those were great days, but they are long gone, and anyone attending information technology school needs to know how to properly protect their information whether they are on the user side or the admin side. Today we’re going to talk a bit about two-factor authentication and how it serves to protect sensitive information in a world where privacy seems to be fleeting.

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

In the previous paragraph, we mentioned that password protection simply isn’t enough anymore, though there are several ways in which information can still be effectively protected. For example, there are those who will make use of key fobs which do make quite the difference, but that doesn’t mean they should always be the go-to. Yes, this is a form of two-factor authentication but it takes it to the extreme and is sometimes pretty inconvenient.

To start, let’s talk about what two-factor authentication is. The idea is that the user enters their password, and the moment they do so, their login will either be processed, or the second form of authentication will be asked for. This will depend heavily upon whether or not the password is being entered at a recognized terminal. If the IP or MAC address is different, for example, the authentication software might need to ask for additional verification that the user is authorized.

This delves into the method by which the authentication is verified, and this usually involves a 4-5 digit code that the user would then enter into a prompt so that they can gain access. This number will most often be sent to the user’s e-mail address, though there may be other ways in which they could receive it – it all depends on the system that is being employed.

Factor Authentication for Today's Logins

Not Always Employed

The best part about two-factor authentication is that it doesn’t always need to be employed unless you are a bit overzealous on the topic of security. Here’s the thing: if the terminal the user is sitting at is recognized, it is unnecessary for them to go through the inconvenience of entering the code again unless, of course, they have opted for such. We’re going to go ahead and use a real-world example for this one: World of Warcraft. Technically the example that we’re about to use could apply to any of the games in Blizzard’s catalog, but we’re going to focus on the most popular one here, for the moment. With World of Warcraft, the login can be protected with an authenticator provided by Blizzard, but built by a third-party security company.

This authenticator can come in one of two different forms, the first, and probably most popular being a key fob that generates a random number that must be entered at the login prompt before the user will be granted access to their account. The second form is a mobile version that can be installed on a smartphone, with either one getting similar results. This is, however, just one good example of two-factor authentication, and you can rest assured that there is much more to think about employing.

There are many different things to learn at information security school, especially in 2017 when things are considerably different. Passwords are no longer enough; today’s IT professionals need to be at the forefront of innovation if they are really going to make a difference and really keep their systems secure. What will you learn and how will you employ it? There is only one way to find out.


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