Website and user account security are two top concerns of WordPress administrators the world over. Unauthorized access can lead to multiple losses, including loss of reputation, loss of proprietary data, as well as financial and operational losses. In some instances, it could also lead to legal action being taken against you.
While username and password combinations have long been the de-facto authentication standard, as systems and networks continued to develop, they no longer remained adequate to protect user accounts. Because of this, something was needed to improve WordPress user login security.
In effect, several technologies were developed, including smart cards and fingerprint readers; however, these do not necessarily translate well to web applications such as WordPress. Something that is just as secure yet flexible was needed – which is what 2FA is all about.
2FA, which is short for Two-Factor Authentication, implements two authentication factors during a login process. By having two factors instead of the traditional one, we are adding an extra layer of security. This extra layer of security is further strengthened by requiring two different authentication factors to gain access to a system and its resources.
What is an authentication factor?
An authentication factor is a way (factor) through which a user can authenticate themselves. While there are different factors available (which is how we can have two-factor authentication), a password, for example, is an authentication method that belongs to the ‘Something you know’ factor. Many are also familiar with smartphones that use fingerprint or face recognition to authenticate users. This is another authentication method known as biometric authentication that belongs to the ‘Something you are’ factor. There are a total of 5 authentication factors. These are:
- What you know
- What you have
- What you are
- What you do
- Where you are
When we use 2-factor authentication, we are essentially using two of these five authentication methods.
Let’s have a look at what each of these authentication factors entails.
What you know
This authentication factor is perhaps the one we are familiar with the most. It includes knowledge we have such as passwords, PINs, and security questions and answers. Here, it’s essential to understand that password security itself plays an essential role with WordPress passwords security plugins, ensuring that the password is not easy to crack or guess.
What you have
Through this authentication method, we need to prove we have something, such as a smartphone. In turn, the smartphone might have an app that gives us a unique password, which we input into the login screen, thus proving it’s in our possession. OTPs (One Time Passwords) belong to this category.
What you are
Through this authentication method, a user must prove who they are. Factors in this category include biometric authentication such as fingerprints, face, voice, and others. Some authenticator apps implement this security check before providing the OTP.
What you do
This one is not very well-known, but has been included in Windows since Windows 8. Through this authentication method, we need to do something such as a specific gesture or touch. Unfortunately, dancing routines are not something that’s accepted yet.
Where you are
This authentication method uses factors such as geolocation data and may block login attempts coming from an irregular area or country. This is often used by banks who, for example, block card purchases that originate from areas outside your usual zones.
The beauty of 2FA
Because we are combining two authentication factors, the user must know something and must have something. This makes it more difficult to impersonate that user since knowing their password is not enough; they also need to have their phone log in successfully.
While this might seem like it makes it more cumbersome for users to log in, in reality, it couldn’t be simpler. 2FA is super easy to set up and use, so the disruption is minimal for both WordPress administrators and users.
Furthermore, 2-factor authentication is becoming more widely used and can play a vital role in securing and hardening WordPress. It also inspires confidence in your users that you take their data and security very seriously, leading to higher levels of trust and continued interaction with your WordPress website.
How to enable 2FA on your WordPress website
Due to the many negative repercussions a breach might cause, adding 2FA on your WordPress website is recommended as a security best practice. The WP 2FA plugin makes it easy to enable and require 2FA on your WordPress website with no technical knowledge required – the built-in super-friendly wizard will walk you through the entire process in minutes for a stress-free experience that’s every bit as secure as they come.