By Wajiha Misbah, legal extern, and Julie Bishop, partner
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and two-factor authentication (2FA) are security mechanisms that protect personal and sensitive information against unauthorized access by requiring users to authenticate themselves by providing two or more forms of identification to access their accounts. This is typically achieved by combining something the user knows – such as their password, with something the user has such as their cell phones, or with fingerprint or facial recognition. By requiring multiple forms of identification, MFA and 2FA make it much more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access to an account.
In the event of a data breach, a username and password combination can be readily compromised. However, by incorporating 2FA, data can remain secure as access to an account will require a factor that is unique to the user. Microsoft notes that there are three different factors that can be used in conjunction with an account password during 2FA. The first one is knowledge, which is something that only account holder is aware of such as a security question. The second factor is possession which is something physical that the account holder owns such as an app. The last one is inheritance which is attributed to the account owner themselves such as fingerprints or facial recognition.
From a privacy perspective, 2FA can be particularly useful because it adds an extra layer of security to protect sensitive information. With the increasing frequency of data breaches and cyber-attacks, 2FA can help prevent unauthorized access to personal information that could be used for nefarious purposes. By requiring a second factor of authentication, 2FA also helps prevent unauthorized access to accounts that could be used to spread harmful or malicious content, which could have serious consequences for individuals or organizations.
The blog post from Twitter announced the decision to remove support for SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA) for Twitter accounts. While the company still supports other forms of 2FA, such as security keys and authentication apps, the decision to remove support for SMS-based 2FA has raised concerns among privacy advocates and users.
The primary concern with SMS-based 2FA is that it is vulnerable to certain types of attacks, such as SIM swapping, where an attacker takes control of a user’s phone number in order to intercept their SMS messages. This type of attack can allow an attacker to gain access to a user’s Twitter account, even if they have a strong password. By removing support for SMS-based 2FA, Twitter is effectively taking away a layer of protection that many users rely on to keep their accounts secure.
It’s worth noting that while Twitter is removing support for SMS-based 2FA, the company is still encouraging users to use other forms of 2FA, such as a security key or an authentication app. These methods can be more secure than SMS-based 2FA, as they are less vulnerable to attacks such as SIM swapping, where an attacker takes control of a user’s phone number to intercept their SMS messages. However, these methods can be more complex to set up and use as they might require additional hardware or may not be supported by all devices, which may make them less accessible to some users.
While Twitter’s decision to remove support for SMS-based 2FA may help to address some of these security concerns, it also raises questions about accessibility and user experience. For some users, SMS-based 2FA may be the only form of 2FA that they are able to use, due to issues with access or technical know-how. By removing this option, Twitter may be making it more difficult for some users to protect their accounts.
BGM Law Group is a law firm specializing in business, privacy, and cybersecurity law. With practitioners admitted in California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, BGM Law Group can help you and your business with a variety of legal needs. For more information, please contact Julie Bishop at Julie@bgmlawgroup.com.