Is Two Factor Authenticate The Security Answer We Have Been Searching For?

Internet security is something that we as a society strive for all of the time. The web has become a big boon for commerce and people are just now getting used to placing their credit card number online. For years people were hesitant about doing that. They would hear all of the horror stories of what could happen and for the most part they decided to skip using web sites for purchases. But pretty soon more and more of their friends were getting great deals by shopping online so they finally decided that they had to join the revolution.

But shopping and conducting overall business online is not as safe as it should be. While the security for making online purchases has gotten a lot better it still is not to the point where you can feel 100% secure in handing out your credit card number. Sure, you will feel safe when visiting some of the big web sites out there, but what about the smaller online commerce sites that do not have the reputation that the big ones have? Do you feel safe shopping at a web site like that? Right now there is new movement on the way to increase the safety of consumers shopping online by requiring two factor authentications. I will talk about what that is and how you can use it to make sure that you are shopping safely online.

some pros and cons of two factor authentication

some pros and cons of two factor authentication

What is two factor authentication?

Right now, when you request to sign into a web site, in most cases all they ask you for is a username and password. While this works most of the time it is not as secure as two factor authentication. The reason why is because someone who isn’t you can easily gain access to these credentials and use them for themselves. With two factor authentication a person has to present two separate factors that would identify them to the computer system.

For example, when you are at an ATM you generally put your card in the machine and type in the pin number. Two factor authentications would be placing your card in the machine, giving your pin number, and then placing your eye up to the machine for a retina scan. The machine now has two ways to identify you and it just did. That is two factor authentication.

How can you accomplish something like that online?

You might be asking yourself right now how something like that can be done while you are using the computer at home. There is a new movement that is being pushed by the computer companies and also some of the online retailers to make hardware available for the home user that will help accomplish this. They want to provide a thumb print scanning device that will be on file by a third party. This third party will create an API that the online retailers can use to identify you by the thumb print. The thumb print along with your password and username will be enough to allow you inside of the web site.

What are the security implications of this type of technology?

While this type of technology can make your online shopping safer, it will also give people online a lot more information about you. You already have to place your credit card number online with your name, now you will have a thumb print as well. People who are privacy hawks do not like this idea at all. They feel that it is too invasive and can easily be abused by either the government or other private concerns.

And they do have a point.

This is the type of technology that can easily by abused by someone. But the rewards might outweigh the risk in this case. Your identity can be abused now. This type of technology, while putting more of your personal information in public view, will also decrease the chances of someone else coming to abuse it.

Not the only way for two factor authentication

While the thumb print idea is something that companies are working on right now, it is not the only way for two factor authentication to work. The second way to identify a person does not have to be physical. It can also be something else that is personal such as your driver license number or your social security number. But you would have to have a lot of faith in a third party to readily give away that much information.

If you want more security on the internet then that means you must be able to give away more personal information about yourself. This way a web site can easily see if it is truly you or not. We will soon start to see whether two factor authentication makes us safer or not.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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