The recent ransomware attack which threatened to bring the NHS to a grinding halt was a timely reminder of the threat every business faces from hackers in the digital age.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) now includes online misdemeanours in its Crime Survey of England and Wales. At the end of June 2016, they estimated there had been 5.6 million fraud and computer misuse crimes during the previous twelve months.

The total number of crimes during that period was 6.2 million.

That means the number of crimes measured by the ONS nearly doubled with the addition of online crime. Proof, if ever it were needed, that vigilance against data thieves and issuers of ransomware is of paramount importance.

But what can you do as a budding social enterprise with limited time, resources and knowledge of cybercrime?

Today, we’re going to focus on one technical change you can make which will go an awfully long way to making your precious data as safe as possible.

It’s known as ‘two-factor authentication’.

What is two-factor authentication, and why should I care?

Two-factor authentication is simply a way of confirming that the identity of the person logging into a device or piece of software is legitimate.

If you use online banking, there’s a good chance you’re already benefitting from two-factor authentication. After entering your login details and password, you may be sent an SMS message containing a further number you’ll need to enter or, possibly, have a physical device which represents the last step required before you can access your accounts.

That’s two-factor authentication in action; it combines an initial method of authentication (typically a username and password) with a second layer to confirm your identity.

The following are the most common identification factors used:

  • Something you know (e.g. a password or PIN)
  • Something you have (e.g. a USB stick or smartphone)
  • Something you are (e.g. a fingerprint or retina scan)

Apple, Google and most other leading lights in the tech business provide two-factor authentication services which are easy to implement and use. And, with that in mind, here’s five reasons your social enterprise should turn them on – now:

1. It’s much easier to use than you might think

People are often put off by two-factor authentication, assuming it’ll simply slow down the process of getting things done. In reality, the latest forms of two-factor authentication are incredibly easy to configure and use – particularly with the proliferation of fingerprint and retina-scanning technology.

2. It’s inherently secure

Passwords are easy to forget. In business, they’re also alarmingly easy to share. With two-factor, you need to be present for the second layer or authentication to be successful, which may change every time it’s issued. This makes it inherently more secure.

3. It’ll reduce the threat of data theft

Cyber criminals aren’t daft, but, equally, they’re more inclined to go for low-hanging fruit than they are to spend hours trying to crack ultra-secure authentication methods. If they spot you have two-factor turned on, they’re far more likely to move onto the next potential victim.

4. It may reduce operational costs

The alternative to two-factor authentication is to implement costly in-house servers, firewalls and outsourced methods of security. Two-factor usually costs nothing to implement and eradicates the need for such investment, thus reducing your social enterprise’s operational costs considerably.

5. It could improve productivity

Two-factor authentication makes remote working far more secure, giving employees who spend time out on the road or at home the ability to get stuff done without having to navigate complex VPNs or accept that certain business assets will only be available in the office.

Wrapping up

Spend some time listing the devices, software and operating systems on which your social enterprise relies. With that list, research the options for two-factor authentication for each and turn it on for those that support it.

It might take you a couple of hours or more to complete, but it’ll be the among the most important time you spend this week.

Image credit