Alternatives to Using SMS for 2-factor Authentication

In: Software

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security measure that requires users to provide two forms of identification before accessing their accounts. One popular method of 2FA is SMS, which sends a one-time code to a user's phone number. While SMS is convenient and easy to use, it has been shown to be vulnerable to attacks such as SIM swapping and phishing.  

Recently, Twitter announced that it will be moving away from SMS-based 2FA due to the potential vulnerabilities associated with this method. Twitter's decision highlights the importance of finding secure alternatives to SMS-based 2FA. If you’re used to SMS-based 2FA, the recent negativity towards it might have you wondering what else is out there. 

Authenticator Apps 

The best alternative to SMS-based 2FA is an authenticator app like Microsoft Authenticator, Google Authenticator, or Authy. These apps generate one-time codes that can be used as your secondary verification method and are available for both iOS and Android, offering more security than SMS-based 2FA. Authenticator apps work even when your phone is offline and aren’t vulnerable to SIM swapping or phone number hijacking. 

Time-based One-time Passwords (TOTP) 

Time-based One-time Passwords (TOTP) are supported by Microsoft Authenticator, Google Authenticator, and Authy, and go hand in hand with Authenticator apps. TOTP is a method of generating a one-time code that expires after a certain amount of time. It uses an algorithm that generates a code based on a shared secret between the user and the service provider. This secret is usually stored on the user's device and is used to generate a code that can be used for 2FA.  

Biometric Authentication 

Biometric authentication uses a user's unique physical characteristics, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition, to authenticate their account through services like Apple's Face ID and Touch ID and Samsung's Iris Scanner. This method is highly secure and convenient for users as they don't need to remember a password or code. 

Security Keys 

Security keys are physical devices that connect to your computer or phone using USB, NFC, or Bluetooth. They use public-key cryptography to authenticate your account, and they offer a high level of security. Security keys are immune to phishing attacks, as they require the user to press a button on the device to authenticate physically. 

While SMS-based 2FA is convenient, it’s also vulnerable to attacks. Authenticator apps, security keys, biometric authentication, and TOTP are all excellent alternatives that provide a higher level of security.  

Need help figuring out which 2FA method is right for your business? As a certified gold Microsoft partner, SeedSpark can educate your organization on the importance of 2FA and help implement the Microsoft Authenticator app and other cybersecurity best practices. 

Contact Us for Your Cybersecurity Needs Today!

Written by Robert Griffin

Our COO, Robert Griffin, has a history of success applying analytical and technical expertise while leveraging various technology and cybersecurity solutions to optimize business capabilities and mitigate organizational risks.

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