Two-Factor Authentication: How it Works

Additional security measures can help you keep your important accounts safe and secure.

As more transactions move online, digital security has become more relevant than ever before. With so much of your personal information present in your online accounts — be it a saved credit card, sensitive medical information, or something else — it makes sense to use every available security tool to protect yourself.

“Single passwords are not enough anymore,” says Ivana Cojbasic, Chief Information Security Officer for Regions Bank.

One important security solution is two-factor authentication, also referred to as two-step authentication or multi-factor authentication. One of the largest benefits of two-factor authentication is that enabling it adds an additional layer of protection beyond your password and username that ensures you are the one accessing your account.

How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

Two-factor authentication essentially verifies any attempt to log in to your account. In most cases, the first step is your username and password. The second step requires an additional piece of information: “something you know, something you have, or something you are,” explains Cojbasic. Whatever the method, two-factor authentication offers a layer of protection that she sees as a necessity for account holders.

Here are a few examples of two-factor authentication technology that you may already be familiar with:

Code via text message

One of the most common forms of two-factor authentication for an account login uses a one-time code sent to your mobile phone. You then enter that code into the account’s website or app to access. These codes may only be active for a short period of time. Note that under no circumstances will your financial institution call you on the phone and request this code. Protect yourself by learning how to spot phishing attempts.

Authenticator software

This method of two-factor authentication continuously generates a one-time code that randomizes after a set interval. Many banks offer authentication apps to their customers. “At Regions we have a few different software authenticator applications that we’ve created in-house,” Cojbasic says.


If you currently use your fingerprint, voice, or facial recognition software to unlock your mobile phone, then you’re already well-acquainted with biometrics. Cojbasic expects biometric authentication to become even more common over the next few years. As voice- and fingerprint-recognition technology spreads and face scans mature to become cheaper and more convenient, these technologies may provide a new means of authentication by using something that fulfills the third factor Cojbasic described, “something you are.”

Is Two-Step Authentication Enough?

Although two-factor authentication provides more security, it doesn’t eliminate risk. Cojbasic notes that even with two-factor authentication, people still need to be wary and use common sense in how they protect their sensitive accounts. “Success still depends on the end user and how conscientious they are about choosing their passwords and changing them regularly.”

For more tips on how to safeguard your accounts and protect yourself against fraud, visit


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.