Think about the ways people recognize you in person in your daily life – at the bank, airport, even at your friend’s house when you ring the doorbell. You prove your identity by providing an ID, saying something so they hear a familiar voice, or letting them see your face.
It’s more difficult online. It’s called authentication, and it’s been an ongoing challenge for businesses and consumers alike. When you’re online, businesses can’t compare your photo ID to your physical appearance to confirm it’s actually you giving them the credit card for payment. So, since the early days of the internet, the online proof process has hinged primarily on 2 pieces of information – your username and a password.
Today, the game has changed, and smartphones have a lot to do with that. Advances in technology have given organizations easier and more accurate ways to “authenticate” their users and customers. The beauty is that you are likely already using some of them without knowing it.
Here are a few different examples of common methods used today to help with authentication.
As you can see, a few of these methods happen behind the scenes, but they can go a long way to helping you be more secure. Many companies and services enable something called multi-factor authentication (MFA). This means they could require a mix of the above to prove who you are.
The idea is essentially to create a puzzle in which you need every piece to gain access, making it harder for the bad guy to break into your account. A bad guy can be prevented from getting access to your account if they are unable to create each piece of the puzzle. As a result, your account is safer. Users often need to proactively opt into MFA, and that is highly recommended if it is available.
It’s important to understand and embrace as many legitimate authentication methods as you can. That added security is in place to protect you and your account information.