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Multi-factor Authentication with SMS: Quick & Easy Security for Everyone

by | Mar 31, 2024

In the early days of the internet, passwords were the only way of securing online accounts and data. They were simple, easy to remember, and provided a basic level of protection against unwanted and unauthorised access. However, as the internet has grown over the years and become more complex, passwords have proven to be insufficient in securing our online identities, especially when it comes to our sensitive data.

In today’s digital age, cyberattacks are sadly becoming increasingly sophisticated and frequent, making it more important than ever to have a strong defence against these threats. Enter, Multi-factor authentication – or MFA in short. Multi-factor Authentication has emerged as a more secure alternative to passwords, as it requires users to provide at least two forms of authentication to verify their identity. Let’s explore the limitations of passwords and the need for more secure methods to protect our online accounts and data.

What is multi-factor authentication? 

Simply put, multi-factor authentication is a security architecture that requires users to provide two or more forms of authentication to verify their identity. By requiring multiple forms of authentication, multi-factor-authentication provides a more secure way of protecting online accounts and data than just relying on passwords.

There are three primary factors of authentication: 

multi-factor authentication types

Something you know refers to a piece of information that only you should know, such as a password, a PIN, or the answer to a security question.

Something you have refers to a physical object that only you should posses, such as a one-time password, a security token or a smart card.

Something you are refers to biometric data unique to you, such as a fingerprint or a facial recognition scan.


Multi-factor authentication combines at least two of these factors to verify your identity. For example, you might enter your password (something you know) and then be required to provide a one-time code sent to your mobile phone (something you have) to access your account. Alternatively, you might scan your fingerprint (something you are) and use a smart card (something you have) to access a secure facility. This is also called Two-Factor Authentication, of 2FA.

By requiring multiple forms of authentication, MFA provides an additional layer of security that makes it much harder for hackers to access your accounts or data.

SMS Based MFA

One of the most common methods of implementing MFA is SMS-based authentication. This method involves sending a one-time code to your mobile phone via text message, which you then enter into the login screen of the application or website you are trying to access. This code is often referred to as the OTP, or one-time password. SMS-based MFA is widely used because it is easy to implement and cost-effective. It also does not require users to install any additional hardware or software since most people already have a mobile phone.

SMS based MFA is not full-proof though. However, despite the concerns about the security of SMS-based MFA, it is still better than having no MFA at all. SMS-based MFA provides an additional layer of security, making it more difficult for hackers to gain access to your accounts. Even if a hacker has your password, they will not be able to access your account without the one-time code sent to your phone.

Advantages of SMS Based MFA

There are many advantages to using SMS-based MFA. First and foremost, it is easy to use and does not require any additional hardware or software. All you need is a mobile phone with a valid phone number. It is also cost-effective, as there are no additional fees or charges for the user to use this method. Additionally, SMS-based MFA is widely supported by many applications and websites, making it a popular choice for many users.

Disadvantages of SMS Based MFA

However, there are some potential downsides to using SMS-based MFA. SMS messages can be intercepted or redirected in targeted attacks. This can compromise the security of the authentication process. Additionally, if someone gains access to your mobile phone, they could potentially intercept the one-time code and use it to access your accounts. 

Closing thoughts

No matter what side of the argument you fall on, safe or unsafe, there is no doubt that SMS as a method for MFA is, and we repeat, better than nothing. It is a great way to bring in a higher form of security in developing areas, such as Africa, and provide security today! And while it may be replaced with something more secure and cost-effective in the future – until that time comes, SMS should be someone everyone should consider.

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