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1FA, 2FA, 3FA, 4: A Primer on Multi-Factor Authentication


Our information is important to us. Doesn’t matter if it’s our emails, bank information, social media credentials, or our phone passwords. It all matters. So how can we protect our information even when it seems hackers hold the winning cards?

Authentication processes can vary from program to program, and almost all of them try to provide the best security possible. Google, for example, employs a dual-authentication protocol that sends a notification to your phone whenever you log-in at an unfamiliar computer. Other programs send an email with a link that verifies that you are who you say you are. This is called multifactor authentication.

Why is this important? If a hacker somehow learns my username and the password to my Facebook profile, he or she will be unable to log-in without the additional form of authentication.

There is another benefit. Let’s say you are at home sitting on your couch, and you receive a notification from your email provider saying someone is wanting access to your account from an unfamiliar location. Obviously that someone is not you. So not only does multifactor authentication in this case provide security, it can be used to notify you of breaches.

If you are wondering how to set-up multifactor authentication, almost all service providers request permission to establish some form of it upon log-in. The typical request is for a phone number or an alternate email address. This enables users to have some degree of additional security even in in the event of identity theft. Coworkers cannot be emailed without the physical phone belonging to the potential victim, and data cannot be stolen without authorization.

There are some alternative ways of authentication outside of those readily available from service providers. YubiKey, created by Yubico, is one key development in this area of security. (See what we did there?) Most multifactor authentication methods involve software – messages being sent and received between hardware. YubiKey is an authentication device that comes in the form of the latter: hardware. The device incorporates USB to send the password via USB protocol (when you plug in a USB, the computer immediately scans and makes available anything on the device). But here’s the real kicker: it changes the password every time it is used.

Tools like YubiKey can be used in tandem with many products, one of which is called LastPass. LastPass stores all of your complicated passwords in a virtual vault, accessed by a master password. This way, you can have one master password (which should be memorable and strong) to control them all. Whenever you want to log-in to one of your accounts, you simply click the LastPass extension on your toolbar. Keep in mind, if someone is trying to hack you from a different computer, he or she would most likely not have access to this extension – the exception being unless that individual had remote access, such as from a rootkit. In that case, a product like YubiKey adds additional security on top of the vault. Even if someone has remote access they would still need the authenticator. Hacker thwarted once again.

There are various authentication products out there, ranging from virtual vaults to finger print scanners, for your phone and computer. Do some research and find the best fit for you. If you feel that multifactor authentication is more than you need, that’s okay! There are still ways to avoid cyberattack. Having different passwords for applications and making sure they are strong (containing alphanumerical characters as well as special characters and spaces) are both highly recommended ways of protecting your information. Cybersecurity does not always have to cost a pretty penny!

If you, your organization or company, or someone you know would like more protecting yourself online or our company, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mission Multiplier at

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