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2FA Transitioning from SMS

The banking industry has just caught on to what internet security experts know: SMS – text messaging – is not the most secure way to control access to accounts. Neither is an email, for that matter. Good authenticator apps are available and have critical advantages over texts and emails.

The problem with texts is that if someone steals your phone number, they can forward a text to their phone and get the verification codes that a website just sent you. You’ll never know if it was sent, and you’ll never know if it was intercepted. You’ll only find out, say, your bank account was hacked when you go to get money, and it’s no longer there.

One of the reasons that text messages – and email, for that matter – are vulnerable is that they’re static. You have one phone number that doesn’t change, and most people have one email address. Even if you have multiple email addresses, each site you visit generally has only one email address. In cases where you can add a secondary email address, do it. You’ll get backup warnings if someone tries to access your account, and you’ll close a door that hackers can use to add themselves as a user – and have emails forwarded to their addresses.

Authenticator apps can solve those problems by being dynamic. Authenticator apps generate time-based, one-time codes that refresh every 30 seconds. If someone manages to get your one-time passcode, it won’t work for them after that first 30 seconds. The codes are generated using a long code transmitted by a QR scan and the current time. Authenticator apps don’t have any access to your accounts. After the initial code transfer, they don’t communicate with the download site; they simply and dumbly generate codes. You don’t even need phone service for them to work.

Authenticator apps are a form of MFA – or multi-factor authentication. We characterize them as long-term vaccines, such as childhood immunization vaccines, to offer long-term protection, and you use them with other authentication measures, such as a password, possession of a device (cell phone), and biometrics, such as a fingerprint or facial identification.

Because we generally work with Microsoft accounts, we prefer setting up clients with Microsoft Authenticator. It’s not a limiting factor because the protocol used for all authenticator apps is usually based on the same standard. This allows you to cross platforms, for example, using Microsoft Authenticator to get into your Google Account or vice versa.

We can help you select the authenticator app that works best for you and your organization and help you configure the app for all your users. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email to discuss your needs and configure your app.

Regardless of what MFA authentication methods you use, set up alerts if your bank accounts dip below a specified level or if a purchase is made using your credit card. We also recommend you use credit cards instead of debit cards for cashless purchases because their security is much better.