Why are Authenticator Apps Better Than SMS for 2FAOctober 19, 2021
Using some form of two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is always a good idea to provide an additional level of protection against unauthorized access to your various business accounts. It’s an important piece of the multi-pronged approach you need to protect your business. SMS text is one popular option, which, although easy to use, is not the most secure choice.
Authenticator apps are another approach to 2FA second level authentication and have proven to be more secure, more reliable, and faster as well. The unfortunate result of the popularity of SMS to secure user accounts is that it has attracted the attention of hackers. They have responded by coming up with multiple ways to subvert it. The result is that SMS text-based authentication is less effective nowadays than it used to be.
It’s time for businesses to take note and switch to a better 2FA method!
What’s Wrong with SMS Text?
Originally, entering a code sent to your phone in a text message was the go-to option for the second step of 2FA authentication. Since most people had a smartphone, it was easy for them to just enter their mobile number and receive a text code to enter in addition to their password.
However, hackers are now using multiple methods to reroute these messages, such as:
The hacker redirects your phone number to a new device from which they can retrieve the text. To do this, all they need is your number and last four digits of your social security number, which may have already been leaked in earlier hacks.
In this approach, hackers forge an authorization through companies that provide rerouting services. Using this method, businesses can be specifically targeted because the hacker can request multiple numbers be rerouted to other devices, including computers.
By using an SS7 attack, hackers can spy directly on mobile phone networks, listening to calls and intercepting texts.
Hacking devices directly
Hackers can spy on everything that happens on a device if they’re able to hack into it. They can get access through malicious emails, texts, and apps. Or, if the business’s network is hacked, all connected devices could be compromised. Investing in a data security management strategy can help prevent this.
Since SMS text authentication is usually valid for 30 minutes or more, this gives hackers more than enough time to use the code to their advantage once they have the user’s other credentials.
Why are Authenticator Apps More Secure?
Authenticator apps work in a manner similar to SMS text. Users get a code on their device and use it in conjunction with their username and password to log in to their accounts. The difference is that the app is tied directly to the physical device. Since the codes are not delivered over the mobile network, hackers can’t intercept the codes that way. The result is that even if they were to reroute your number, they still wouldn’t receive the codes.
In order for the authenticator to work with the account you are trying to access, you first need to “pair” the app on your device with the account. If you change devices, you have to go through the process again.
Another major benefit of authenticator apps is that their codes expire quickly. A new code is usually generated every 30 seconds. Depending on the service, you’ll either need to enter the code or use a one-tap verification in the app. These codes only work once. Servers are synced with the app and your device to provide optimal security.
Google Authenticator, Authy, and Microsoft Authenticator are some of the most commonly used authenticator apps.
All businesses should switch to an authenticator app for 2FA to better secure their data. It’s an additional, highly effective layer you should add to your data security management plan.
What can be Secured?
Businesses can use authenticator apps to secure logins to email, various business apps, remote logins, and much more. While many web services are still slow to adopt authenticator apps, you can nevertheless implement them within your own business to protect it. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your data will be better protected by a more secure mechanism for granting access only to authorized users.
To get help with securing your data, consider working with an IT services provider like GSDSolutions. We offer managed IT services in Palo Alto and throughout the Bay Area, and also have an office in Modesto Valley to serve customers in the Central Valley. Our predictable labor costs, proactive approaches to risk management, and access to senior-level technical personnel make managing IT one less worry for you.
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