How Hackers ByPass 2-Factor Authentication

October 4, 2022

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is widely used by all sizes of organizations, and some companies make 2FA mandatory for customers’ access as well. 2FA refers to authenticating a user in two different ways, adding a layer of security to access. For example, 2FA can require a one-time password (OTP) via SMS message or email. Some 2FAs can ask for in-app approvals by using a time-based one-time password (TOTP) and grant access. 

Simply, these 2FA tools and application tools use these methods to verify identities after the user has given the right credentials. Cybercriminals bypass these security tools by various methods. All they need is to identify which 2FA methods are used for access. Because all second-layer authentication methods can be hacked, and even third-party applications’ access to your accounts poses a threat. 

To bypass the second layer, cybercriminals can use social engineering to deceive you with wrong security alerts and simply capture OTPs and login credentials and send phishing emails to others. Additionally, hackers can use brute force attacks after they possess the login credentials of users. Generally, hackers use these ways to bypass 2FA systems and conduct malicious activities in their target’s network. 

Why Should Businesses Replace Two-Factor Authentication? 

As of 2022, 2FA tools aren’t enough to secure identities and access. These days, cyberattacks are skyrocketing; companies simply can’t afford to fall victim to cyber-attacks because each incident can cause downtime, shut time, or, even worse, data breaches. Monetary costs of data breaches can be really high, more than SMBs can afford. 

To mitigate these security risks and handle the complexity of network security, companies need to implement a series of security tools like identity & access management (IAM), Network Access Control (NAC), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and many more. As a start, companies can adopt Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and strengthen security. Since the pandemic, many companies have adopted MFA tools and mitigated the security previously associated with 2FA. Before addressing the main issues, and comparing MFA to 2FA, let’s define what multi-factor authentication is.

What Is Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)?

Multi-factor authentication tools verify users’ identities in two or more ways. The goal of the MFA tools is to lead users to give evidence from different sources to authenticator mechanisms. The combination of sources might vary depending on the client’s MFA application. But, the information sources are generally based on knowledge, possession, inherence, and context factors. For instance, an MFA mechanism might require users to give a piece of information based on inheritance, knowledge, and possession factors.  

Knowledge-based factors refer to information that the user knows, like pins, security questions, and passwords. Possession-based factors might require users to provide evidence that the user has or owns it, like a smart card, token, OTP, application, or key. Inheritance-based factors require users to provide evidence via biometrics. So, users have to provide evidence from their physical characteristics like a fingerprint, face ID, voice command, and eye scan. Lastly, context-based factors refer to pieces of evidence that are provided by locations. 

MFA mechanisms can require users to give in a combination of factors, then grant access. This way, it ensures that only authorized and authenticated users can reach corporate networks and resources. Additionally, MFA tools prevent compromised accounts from gaining access, and bypassing the MFA mechanism isn’t so easy.  

MFA vs. 2FA

When we compare MFA with 2FA, the most distinctive feature is that MFA employs biometric authentication, and 2FA only requires factors based on knowledge and possession factors. Another distinctive difference between MFA vs. 2FA is that MFA is hard to bypass, and when all authentication factors are provided by a single device, MFA tools might consider this account as compromised. Meanwhile, 2FA will grant access to all users that have provided the right authentication factors to the mechanism. Simply, 2FAs are easier to bypass as most of them only require OTPs as the second layer of authentication.  

Shortly, replacing 2FA with MFA can be a great decision in terms of security because even if cyber criminals manage to provide two factors to the authentication mechanism, it won’t grant access. This way, users can no longer be used as gateways by cybercriminals, even if their login credentials are compromised. In this regard, MFA tools bring some critical benefits to the table. They strengthen security and mitigate the security risks associated with unauthorized and illegitimate access. Lastly, MFA tools are the important components for identity & access management (IAM), Network Access Control (NAC), and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) tools. 

Last Words   

Companies that use 2FA tools for employees’ and customers’ access are up against higher security risks than the companies that use MFA tools. These days, cybercriminals can easily bypass 2FA systems and cause downtime, shutdown, and data breaches. For these reasons, it is better to use multi-factor authentication and allow access to only authorized users.


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