Multi-factor authentication, or MFA, makes you prove your identity in addition to entering a strong password, before allowing you access to an account.
What happens if you don’t remember, or can no longer access, your MFA?
When you sign up for new accounts, you often get a list of codes to save or print. These are called authentication recovery codes, and you can enter any of them if you get locked out of your account for any reason.
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What Is Authentication Recovery?
Authentication recovery is an important security feature that ensures the safety of user data and accounts. It verifies a user’s identity, allowing them to reset their passwords in case they forget them.
They’re also sometimes called “backup codes.” Whatever you call them, they give you back access to your accounts when you lose your credentials or can’t complete the MFA. These numbers would be difficult for cybercriminals to obtain and thus are a more secure fail-safe than, for example, security questions because thieves can often harvest that information from your social profiles.
Authentication recovery codes are generated randomly. This AI-based process provides an extra layer of security, ensuring that only authorized persons have access.
Methods of Authentication Recovery
There are several methods of authentication recovery that online platforms use. These include:
Security questions are a set of questions that users set up during the account creation process. These questions are usually personal and known only to the user. In case the user forgets their password, they can answer these security questions to regain access to their account.
Email verification is a method where a user’s email is used to verify their identity. A recovery link is sent to the user’s registered email address, which they can use to reset their password and regain access to their account.
Phone verification is similar to email verification, but instead of sending a recovery link to the user’s email address, a verification code is sent to their registered phone number. The user can then use this code to reset their password and recover their account.
Biometric authentication uses unique physical traits, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, to verify a user’s identity. This method is becoming increasingly popular due to its high level of security and ease of use.
Why Authentication Recovery is Important
Authentication recovery is important for multiple reasons. Firstly, it ensures that users do not lose access to their accounts due to unforeseen circumstances. Secondly, it is necessary to ensure the security of user accounts. Without proper authentication recovery mechanisms, a hacked account could potentially give hackers access to sensitive user information. Therefore, authentication recovery plays a crucial role in preventing account hijacking and identity theft.
Another important piece of the puzzle involves where to store your recovery codes. You can’t just keep them on a piece of paper next to your desk, because anyone could see them. Likewise, you don’t want to stuff them in a locked drawer where you’ll forget about them, or worse, be unable to find them when needed.
Unlike one-time passwords, your recovery codes don’t change! You need to keep them somewhere secure. Password managers are the safest place to store them online because they are encrypted to prevent anyone else from seeing all of your private information. Just keep them separate from where you store your password for that website, so one being compromised doesn’t necessarily affect the other.
If you choose to print it out, then we recommend keeping them in a locked safe where you can easily grab them on a rainy day.
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What should I do if I forget my security questions?
If you forget your security questions, you can usually reset them by providing additional information, such as your date of birth or postal code.
Can hackers bypass multi-factor authentication?
While it is possible for hackers to bypass multi-factor authentication, it is much harder than bypassing a single authentication factor, such as a password.
Can I recover my account if I don’t have access to my registered email address or phone number?
Online platforms usually provide alternative recovery options for users who do not have access to their registered email address or phone number, such as answering security questions or providing additional identification.
How often should I update my password?
It is recommended to update your password every three to six months and to use a strong, unique password for each online account.