What is 2FA? A beginner’s guide

If you’re thinking about adding 2FA (two-factor authentication) to your WordPress website, but you’re not quite sure what the fuss is all about, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will explain what 2FA is, how it works, and how to set it up – as plainly and simply as possible without the technical jargon.

Taking some time to learn about this new-ish technology can help you navigate new waters more efficiently and effectively. After all, 2FA has many benefits, so jumping on board will definitely see you better off.

Once you feel comfortable with the basics of 2FA and would like to dive deeper into the subject, we have loads more articles about authentication and 2FA on WordPress to read, giving you an even better understanding of what this technology is and how it can keep you safe online.

2FA – What does it do exactly?

When accessing your online accounts, you typically use a username and a password. While this is relatively safe, it carries certain risks, such as breaches through password theft, phishing, and others. Many times hackers find ways to hack online accounts and steal passwords. Once they have your password, they can access your account just like you do. This is the problem that 2FA solves.
2FA, also known as two-step verification, is a way to log in to your online accounts more securely than using a username and password alone. It adds a layer of security that makes it way more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access to your account – even if they manage to steal your password. This makes 2FA a must in keeping your online accounts more secure.

How 2FA works

2FA stands for two-factor authentication. To understand how it works, we first need to discuss factors – the thing 2FA has two of.

What is a factor, and why does 2FA have two?

As the name suggests, two-factor authentication uses two factors for authentication – but what is a factor, exactly?

Think of factor as one specific way you can authenticate yourself or, in simpler words, log in. Using a username and password is one type of factor that you can use to log in. This factor is known as the ‘what-you-know’ or knowledge factor. As you might imagine, it’s called this way because you must know your username and password to be able to use them for authentication.

In 2FA, we use a second factor that is different from the what-you-know (username and password) factor. One common secondary factor is the ‘what-you-have’ or possession factor, which usually refers to your smartphone. In this case, an app on your mobile device will give you a secret code you use to log in to your account, with each secret code valid for 30 seconds. This means you can use each code just once, which is why it is commonly referred to as OTP (One-Time Passcode or One-Time Password).

OTP mobile apps, also known as authenticator apps, are available for both Google Android and Apple iOS devices. One such app is Google Authenticator. However, there are many others such as Authy. Installing an authenticator app on your mobile phone is straightforward and works the same way as with any other app.

One thing worth noting is that some of these authenticator apps may also require biometric authentication such as FaceID or your fingerprint. This is also known as the inherence factor. When available, you should enable this since it adds an extra security layer.

While this might sound complicated, logging in to a 2FA-protected account is very simple.

Logging in with Two-factor Authentication (2FA)

The first step of the login process is to enter your username and password the same way you would without 2FA.

Once you enter your username and password, instead of logging straight in, you will be presented with a second login screen asking you for the secret code. This code is the OTP we spoke about earlier.

Using this method, if someone steals your password, they will still not be able to log in as they do not have the secret code from your password.

The different 2FA methods available

Phones are not the only secondary authentication method available to authenticate with 2FA. Email is another favorite, with secret codes sent to your inbox instead of your phone. Of course, it is essential to have the codes sent to a different email than the one associated with the account. This is good cybersecurity practice. It ensures that if there’s a security breach and your email is compromised, the attacker does not get access to the account that 2FA is protecting.
There are many other ways 2FA can send OTPs, including SMS text message, WhatsApp, and push notifications, among others. The availability of these methods will depend on the 2FA plugin you choose, with WP 2FA – the number one user-rated 2FA WordPress plugin offering multiple 2FA methods to choose from.

You’re already using 2FA (and have been for a long time)

If you’re still unsure whether you should use two-factor authentication, you might be surprised to know you’re most likely already using it. 2FA has been in use for many years, and most people are already very familiar with it, even if in a slightly different context. In fact, 2FA is how people withdraw money from ATMs. When you withdraw cash from an ATM, you need a physical debit/credit card – something you have and a PIN – something you know. Imagine how insecure ATMs would be if you could withdraw money from your account using just your card or your PIN.

Many online service providers, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and others, offer and sometimes even enforce 2FA. This goes a long way toward attesting to the efficacy of 2FA. It also ensures that most users are already familiar with 2FA, helping you lower the learning curve for your WordPress 2FA implementation.

When to set up 2FA

Generally speaking, if it is available, you should set up 2FA as soon as possible. Various studies by industry giants such as Microsoft and Google have shown that 2FA can stop the majority of the most common attacks, leaving your accounts, data, and websites safer.

Setting up 2FA can also help you achieve compliance while increasing user and customer trust in your website. With the WP 2FA plugin, you can get started for free anytime and only upgrade when you need the premium features for a cost-effective solution that is every bit as secure.

How to set up 2FA on your WordPress

If you want to set up 2FA on your WordPress website and also make it available for your team and users, you can easily do this by using WP 2FA.
WP2FA is a 2FA plugin that makes adding 2FA to WordPress websites easy and quick. There is no need for technical skills or know-how, and we offer plenty of documentation and excellent support to help you ensure a successful deployment. This can be done anytime by following the WordPress 2FA installation guide.

Once you install the plugin, you should set up 2FA as soon as possible. The sooner you configure 2FA, the sooner you will secure your account.

To help you and your team configure 2FA confidently, we have also prepared a 2FA companion guide. This guide will walk you through every step of the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between 2FA and MFA?

MFA stands for Multi-Factor Authentication – an umbrella term that includes logins with two or more authentication factors.

Should I use a password manager if I have 2FA?

Password managers and 2FA serve very different functions. With a password manager, you can easily increase the complexity of your password without having to remember it. 2FA adds an extra layer of security to the authentication process. For best results, use both.

How do I recover my account if I lose my phone?

If you get a new device or lose your iPhone or Android phone, you can still log in when using WP 2FA. The plugin allows you to configure backup authentication codes and secondary authentication methods to ensure you’re always able to log in. This makes account recovery very easy.

How secure is 2fa?

2FA has been proven to protect websites from incidents that can lead to security breaches. Without access to the 2FA device, attackers will find it very difficult to gain access to the user account they’re trying to breach – leaving your website sound and secure.

Download WP 2FA to implement & use WordPress 2FA

2FA is a very accessible technology that can drastically improve the security of your WordPress website. This can be achieved with minimal effort and in no time at all. When choosing WP 2FA to deploy 2FA on your WordPress website, you can be assured that we’ll support you with frequent updates, plenty of documentation, and stellar customer support. We will be with you every step of the way to help you ensure the deployment is a resounding success.

Get started with a free WP 2FA plugin trial today. And remember, we’re only an email away should you need any assistance.

Add an extra layer of security to your WordPress login pages

Utilize our easy-to-use, #1 user-rated WP 2FA plugin to:

  • Deploy two-factor authentication policies
  • Require users to use 2FA during login
  • Enable 2FA on any custom and non-custom login form

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