Why You Shouldn’t Use SMS for Two-Factor Authentication (and What to Use Instead)?
As the world continues to digitize, the need for secure authentication methods grows increasingly more critical. One of the most popular methods of authentication is SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires users to enter a code sent to their mobile device via SMS as an additional layer of security on top of their password. However, despite its widespread usage, SMS-based 2FA has several potential security flaws that make it an inadequate method of authentication. In this article, we’ll discuss why you shouldn’t use SMS-based 2FA and what to use instead.
The first and most crucial issue with SMS-based 2FA is that it is subject to interception. Hackers can intercept the SMS containing the 2FA code, allowing them to gain access to the account with minimal effort. This can happen in several ways, including SIM swapping or by exploiting vulnerabilities in the mobile carrier’s network. Additionally, cybercriminals can use social engineering techniques to trick telecom employees into swapping the target’s SIM card to a device they control, giving them access to the 2FA code.
The second issue with SMS-based 2FA is that it relies on a device that users may not have with them at all times. In situations where users do not have their mobile device with them, such as when visiting another location or traveling, they may be unable to access their accounts. This can cause significant problems, especially for business users who may need to access data anytime, anywhere.
Another significant downside to SMS-based 2FA is that it does not protect against phishing attacks. Phishing attacks occur when a cybercriminal creates a fake login page to capture user credentials. Once the user enters their username and password, the hacker can use these stolen credentials to access the account. SMS-based 2FA does not protect against this type of attack, as the 2FA code can be sent to the attacker’s device instead of the user’s device.
Given these concerns, what should you use instead of SMS-based 2FA? One excellent alternative is app-based authentication. App-based authentication uses an app, such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator, to generate a unique code that users enter alongside their password. This method adds an extra layer of security, as the code is stored within the app and does not rely on a vulnerable SMS network. Additionally, the app-based approach does not require an internet connection, does not require the physical presence of a mobile device, and protects against phishing attacks.