Your online personal information and sensitive data could be vulnerable due to cyber threats in today’s digital world. So, you must have used mobile numbers while verifying your identity, right? But did you know that it has a great role in two-factor authentication?
Two-factor authentication with a mobile number is a great way to prevent unauthorized access. You can receive OTP and calls for verification on your phone number, which makes it reliable. Even if attackers compromise your username and password, they will still require OTP sent to your number to gain access to your account.
In this article, we will discuss the role of mobile numbers in securing your account and verifying accounts. So without further due, let’s get started!
What is Two-factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication is a two-step verification technique that requires users to authenticate themselves using a different process. The first step requires filling in a password; the other factor can be OTP, calls, notifications, biometrics, and more.
Various online platforms use this method to secure users’ accounts and prevent unauthorized access. It helps users prevent fraud, scams, and phishing and control access control to confidential information.
In two-factor authentication, two types of credentials or factors are combined to verify an individual’s identity. These factors fall into three main categories:
- Knowledge factor: Knowledge factor is something the user knows, such as a password, PIN, or answers to security questions.
- Possession factor: This involves something the user possesses, such as a physical token, smart card, or mobile device.
- Inherence factor: This involves something inherent to the user, such as biometric data (fingerprint, facial recognition, etc.).
The Role of Mobile Numbers in 2FA and Account Verification
Mobile numbers are crucial in two-factor authentication and account verification as they provide an additional layer of security to ensure that only authorized users can access their accounts.
1. Identity Verification
2FA and account verification processes rely heavily on mobile numbers due to their ubiquity among consumers today. All your personal information, such as name, address, and other documentation, such as your driving license and passport, is needed to get a mobile number. So it indicates that the mobile number is your identity, so it is a reliable way to verify it.
2. SMS Verification
SMS verification is becoming increasingly popular for verifying identity and providing one-time passwords (OTPs). Using this method, you avoid relying on third-party services, such as email providers, which cybercriminals could hack.
OTPs are time-limited codes sent via text message that must be entered within a certain time frame. It helps confirm successful account recovery attempts after resetting forgotten passwords.
Since new credentials aren’t sent by snail mail, it ensures greater security while providing faster service.
3. Multi-Device Access
Multi-device access is more convenient than ever when multiple devices are linked under the same user profile. It lets customers switch between platforms quickly while controlling who can view private data stored online.
A user can still access any secondary device even if they lose their primary device due to the ”multi-device” capability many modern apps offer today.
4. Account Recovery
Mobile numbers play a crucial role in account recovery processes. Users who forget their passwords or lose access to their accounts can often regain access by verifying their identity through their registered mobile numbers. This may involve receiving a recovery code or a password reset link via SMS text to their mobile device.
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Popular Methods for Two-factor Authentication & Account Verification
While SMS-based verification is commonly used, several other methods exist for implementing 2FA and account verification. Let’s explore some of the popular methods:
1. SMS-based verification
SMS-based verification includes sending OTP (One-Time Passcode) via SMS text messaging to a phone number. Users should provide their phone number when registering an account or logging in.
The advantage here lies in its convenience – since almost everyone has a mobile device these days, this form of security is accessible by just about anyone with minimal effort.
Furthermore, neither developers nor users need extra hardware devices such as tokens or cards – it’s quite simple to implement from both sides!
2. Email-based authentication
Like SMS, email-based authentication uses emails instead of text messages to send codes so individuals can verify themselves upon logging in, registering on websites/apps, etc. Despite identical implementation steps, it provides even greater convenience, given how ubiquitous email has become.
Like SMS verification, though, nothing special is required beyond basic setup instructions for both endpoints (developers + users).
3. Hardware token-based authentication
Hardware token-based authentication uses physically based devices for verification. Devices such as USB digital cards and key fobs are used, which generate unique keys each time they are used.
Hardware-based authentication is a highly secured account security verification protocol because even if they steal your device, they won’t have the passcode.
Using specialized equipment & coding skillsets means costlier implementations, plus extra costs associated with distributing those tokens to all registered members.
4. App-based authentication
App-based authentication utilizes dedicated authenticator apps installed on users’ smartphones or other devices. These apps generate time-based one-time passwords (TOTPs) that users enter during authentication. Popular authenticator apps include Google Authenticator and Microsoft Authenticator.
Challenges and Risks Associated with Mobile Number Verification
There are many benefits to using phone numbers for verification, but you can face some challenges and risks. Let’s have a brief overview of them.
1. SIM Swapping
SIM swapping is a common method attackers use to take control of the phone number. Attackers convince the mobile service providers to transfer the mobile number to a different SIM card.
Once they gain access, they can use this new device for malicious activities. It involves accessing your accounts, stealing personal data, or sending spam messages without the user’s knowledge. For online access to sensitive information, organizations should use other two-factor authentication methods and strong passwords on all devices.
2. Account Hijacking
Another risk associated with mobile numbers is account hijacking, where attackers get unauthorized access to someone’s account via their phone numbers. It can also be done by stealing SIM or bypassing mobile number authentication.
Issues such as identity theft, financial loss, loss of confidential information, blackmail, fraud, and other issues can occur due to account hijacking. You should use multi-layered authentication and the best security measures to keep your account safe.
Additionally, organizations should never store personally identifiable information (PII) on their servers to prevent unauthorized parties from obtaining them via hacking attempts.
3. Inaccurate or Fake Numbers
Intentionally or unintentionally, users may provide incorrect mobile numbers during the verification process. It can create problems such as the inability to reach customers, potential fraud or misuse of services, and a negative impact on the business’s reputation.
Also, fake numbers can lead to wasted resources and increased costs. Therefore, businesses need to implement measures to detect and prevent the use of inaccurate or fake numbers during the verification process.
4. Reliance on SMS
Sometimes you won’t be able to receive the SMS in the given time frame. It creates a problem and shows the unreliability of phone numbers for SMS verification.
Heavily relying on SMS can create problems such as fraud and misuse of services, resulting in negative customer experience and lost business opportunities. It can also lead to wasted resources and can be vulnerable to interception or spoofing, which can compromise the security of the verification process.
5. Technical Issues
Users can find technical issues while receiving security verification voice calls and SMS. Network connectivity problems can cause the loss of time-limited OTP codes. It makes users unable to verify the account or 2-factor authentication.
In addition to network problems and server downtimes, operating system bugs can occur. These are the reasons for delays, errors, and failures in the verification process.
6. Limited Accessibility
Limited accessibility presents challenges, especially in developing nations where the majority population has no means of connecting to the internet. Lack of accessibility makes providing online banking/shopping facilities for the general public difficult.
Even though things are improving slowly, much work must be done to ensure everyone gets tech facilities and knowledge about secure data account verification.
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Alternatives to Mobile Number Verification
There are some alternatives for account verification methods and two-factor authentication if you don’t want to use your phone number. Some of the substitutes include;
1. Virtual phone numbers
Virtual phone numbers are a great alternative to mobile number verification. It works through the internet using VoIP to make calls and send SMS.
They come with high security and different features. You can use a virtual phone number for OTP verification if you don’t want to use your number. You can enter the virtual number and receive the OTP via the providers’ app for verification purposes.
2. Burners Phone
Burners phone is another option if you need a temporary phone to verify your OTP. You can use it as a security measure to verify the account or use it for two-factor authentication purposes.
They are disposable phones and do not require any personal information. However, some platforms do not send verification to the Burners phone, which can be unreliable sometimes.
3. Third-Party Verification services
You can find different app verification services and other third-party services only be used for verification. Apps such as SupportYourApp, and CallBox are some examples of third-party verification services. You can set up an authenticator with these app services.
These services specialize in identity verification and offer various methods, such as verification codes, document checks, security keys, database searches, or data analysis, to verify the authenticity of user-provided information.
Mobile number plays an important role in two-factor authentication and account verification. As there are many benefits, you can also face some challenges while using mobile numbers during verification.
The mobile number provides a convenient and accessible way to verify 2FA to complete the authentication. Using mobile numbers for 2FA can enhance the security of your online accounts and prevent unauthorized access.