Two Factor Authentication

Posted by: Do Lee October 27, 2015 Cybersecurity, EPCS

What is two factor authentication and why is it important?

When exploring cyber security or internal system security, perhaps you’ve come across the term two factor authentication, aka 2fa. Many people are familiar with single sign-on (SSO) – the ability to sign into one application and use that login to seamlessly access multiple application (i.e. email, Facebook sign-ons) – but they don’t realize that using SSO without a two factor authentication leaves accounts susceptible to cyberattacks, and even identity theft.

So, what is 2fa?

Two factor authentication is a type of multifactor authentication (MFA). The term multifactor allows for more than two types of identification components in the application sign on chain. 2fa is the process in which users specifically utilize two components to authenticate their identity. Typically the two factors are a user created password and a onetime password (OTP) given by a hard or soft token (think SMS). The most common form of 2fa that people use is at an ATM. An ATM requires the user to possess a physical card, as well as provide a personal identification number (PIN).

Why is 2fa Important?

Secure authentication processes are particularly important in the finance, healthcare, life sciences, and aerospace industries. For example, in healthcare, a major hurdle for health providers is preventing prescription fraud and abuse. Electronically authenticating identities of the provider is important so that addicts cannot misuse paper prescription pads to get more pills. In some states, providing controlled substances electronically is mandated (EPCS – electronic prescriptions for controlled substances). These mandates not only require 2fa to authenticate providers prescribing the controlled substances, but help track logins and prescriptions sent to pharmacies to prevent abuse.

As a best practice every industry should really use some type of multifactor authentication for not only the sake of their intellectual property (IP), but their employees’ identities as well. Cyberattacks have become more prevalent, and as they become more ubiquitous, they become more deceptive. Most data breaches start from innocuous emails that present themselves to be helpful, while they are really set up to steal passwords and PINS. These emails are called phishing attacks and two factor authentication makes it more difficult for phishing attacks to succeed. shows you in real-time the hundreds of phishing attacks that happen every second.

In short, utilizing multifactor authentication, such as a two factor process to sign on to your account, is extremely helpful in the effort to prevent fraud and cyber crime.