Security spotlight: two-factor authentication in remote support
This post was originally published on January 25, 2018, and updated on June 16, 2020.
In a world where cyberattacks and threats are a growing reality for both businesses and individuals around the globe, it’s important that you have access to security tools that keep you and your end-users’ data protected. It’s also mission-critical to prepare ahead of time as cybersecurity breaches are getting harder to combat and can strike at any time causing irreparable damage.
One workplace cybersecurity method to keep in mind is a multi-factor authentication (MFA) system, which extends the login process for safety purposes. A subset of this method is the popular two-factor authentication (2FA) system, which requires two separate actions to obtain access to a private account. Both authentication systems are highly sought-after security features in remote access and support software as it has been shown to successfully foil hackers’ attempts at stealing sensitive data.
By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know everything you need to truly understand how 2FA empowers both technicians and users with another layer of defense.
Demystifying MFA security measures
There’s a good reason why the Louvre has more than one level of security in place to prevent thieves from getting their hands on the Mona Lisa. Sealed behind a bullet-proof layer of glass, sectioned off from spectators by a barrier, and continually watched by security personnel, these measures were put in place to ensure the priceless piece of art isn’t carried away (again).
Whether it’s a da Vinci painting or your private data, it’s vital to keep invaluable objects and information as guarded as possible against attacks. As they say, better safe than sorry! To keep cyber-thieves at bay, MFA is a cybersecurity measure that requires users to present two or more forms of authentication in order to successfully log into their account. Each factor of authentication will land into one of three categories.
Types of authentication
An authentication category that you likely use on a daily basis is knowledge or using something you know. A common example is typing in a password or a PIN number. You might have used this method if you’ve ever answered a security question, such as ‘What was the name of your first pet?’ or ‘What is your favorite food?’. However, security questions aren’t always that secure. At times, it doesn’t take much for hackers to determine the correct answers leaving them with complete access to any and all information.
The next category is possession or something you have. Each time you swipe your debit card, you’re actively engaging in this method. Mobile phones can also be used. Although this method is usually a reliable form of authentication, it can get tricky if a user forgets or loses their possession—which brings us to our next category.
The final category is inherence or using something that you are. If you’ve ever unlocked your smartphone by scanning your fingerprint, then you’ve already mastered this component. It may have seemed futuristic in Mission: Impossible, but retinal scans and other biometric security are increasingly relied upon as a fool-proof authentication method.
What’s up with 2FA?
2FA is simply a type of MFA, requiring a combination of two authentication methods. By adding an extra step in the log-in process, you can ensure the person logging in is really who they say they are.
At ConnectWise, we commonly use a one-time password as a form of 2FA. Say you were logging into your account. After you type in your username and password, you would be prompted to type in a verification code. Said code is sent via email or to an authenticator app on your mobile phone, which you can then use to complete the authentication process. Although this method might seem tedious at times, especially since a new verification code is generated each time a user logs in to their account, it’s still highly effective at creating a barricade between your information and hackers.
Although 2FA might be more time-consuming, it’s immeasurably safer when compared with single-factor authentication. Once a password is cracked by a hacker, it can be used to uncover sensitive data and wreak havoc.
Seamlessly experience 2FA
One of the most pressing questions regarding authentication is: how do you prevent loss of data while also ensuring the process itself is user-friendly? The good news is that we asked the same question when developing our 2FA.
It’s important to consider the individuals tasked with continually taking these extra steps to access their own information. These methods require additional time and/or resources, which may seem like a hindrance. To help alleviate potential frustrations, we discovered and implemented certain steps to help speed up the process. Because who doesn’t like a good fast pass?
At ConnectWise, we provide the capability to save a trusted device when using the one-time password as previously mentioned. When a user is entering the password, they are provided with the ability to click a "trust this device" checkbox. Once the user selects the checkbox, they are not required to enter the one-time verification code for a thirty-day period if they are logging on from their current computer, smartphone, or other electronic device.
By now you know that 2FA is the next best thing since sliced bread (well, at least when it comes to data security). It’s important to consider which form and categories are right for you and your end-users. You may even want to mix and match methods among your users to promote flexibility. Setting these solutions up doesn’t have to take forever and a day either. For example, an authenticator app, which generates unique passwords each and every minute, usually takes less than five minutes to set up!
All in all, 2FA is your new best friend if you’re looking to fend off hackers from cracking the codes and accessing your data. An extra step or two may not seem like much, but make no mistake. Authentication is a powerful and reliable line of defense that will keep you breathing easy.