How Hackers Hack Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) in Any System

How Hackers Hack Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) in Any System

2FA is an additional shield of protection against attacks since usernames and passwords aren’t enough for us to access our services online and perform our online duties securely. It has been highlighted from a detailed study that more than 80% of all hacking-related breaches happen due to compromised and weak credentials (username and passwords), and over three billion credentials were hacked and stolen worldwide in the year 2016.

That came to the extent that two-factor authentication became a necessity to secure our credentials online as we navigate many sites online and even scam sites without knowing. 2FA is an additional security feature that provided an additional layer of security after the first layer of security which is our account login details (username and password).

This has been a very effective security layer and studies have shown that over 99% of automated attacks have been blocked thanks to 2FA. But how can it still be hacked since it has a really high security success rate? Well you should first of all know that in the computer world, no system is secured at a hundred percent. Before we get to how hackers hack 2FA, let's first talk on what two-factor authentication really is. At the nd of this article, we will answer the question "can two-factor authentication be hacked?".

What is Two-Factor Authentication and How does it works?

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) or sometimes referred to as two-step verification or dual-factor authenticator is an additional layer of security introduced into administrative systems to enhance the security of all login attempts into the system and helps protect accounts if ever the username and password of the concerned account has been hacked.

2FA falls under Multi-Factor Authentication which is an electronic authentication method in which a user is granted access to a website or application only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism: knowledge, possession, and inherence. - Wikipedia

With 2-factor authentication, an extra layer of security is added to your account to prevent someone from logging in, even if they have your password. This extra security measure requires you to verify your identity using a randomized 6-digit code we'll send you each time you attempt to log in.

As well as it sounds secure and efficient to protect account online, it can equally be hacked. 

Hackers have developed efficient methods of bypassing two-factor authentication that rely on SMS as a 2FA. That is to say, all accounts that use SMS to receive a code as 2FA can be hacked by such a group of hackers. This is the case where we experience how hackers bypass two-factor authentication on Facebook, Instagram, Facebook, iCloud, and even Gmail.

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How do Hackers Hack Two-Factor Authentication

Hackers have developed methods such as Brute force methods to bypass 2FA on many servers. We talk here of servers or sites that have SMS as 2FA which can be easily exploited with a good brute force attack and automated system for capturing the 6 digit code for verification. 

So now if you were asking yourself if 2 step verification can be hacked, you now got your answer.

With very good cyber security gadgets and tools, this will be a gameplay for hackers and they will easily circumvent this step. Believe it or not, hackers can get the 2FA code sent to you by SMS even before it reaches you because they know that if you receive it before them, you will attempt to protect your account which may lead to a failure of their attack.

Till date, we still find many sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, iCloud, Gmail and may others that use one-time code sent by SMS. Australia also carries a lot of services that use this method.

So What's Really the Problem with SMS as 2FA?

Top vendors such as Microsoft have urged users to abandon 2FA solutions that involves SMS and voice calls to receive one-time code. This is because SMS is renowned for having infamously poor security, leaving it open to a host of different attacks.

Let's take for example, SIM swapping which has has been practically shown as a way to bypass 2FA. SIM swapping is a situation where a hacker trying to access a victim's account by convincing the victim's ISP or mobile service provider to change the victim's phone number to another number that the hacker chooses and find suitable for his attack to bypass the 2FA of the victim. He will claim he is the legal owner of the number and force the mobile network provider of the victim to switch the victim's current mobile number to another one that the hacker has access to. This has been one of the current 2FA bypassing method used in cyber attacks.

SMS-based one-time codescan also be hacked by using tools that have been readily made and available for such a purpose. We talk here of tools such as Modlishka by applying a technique called reverse proxy. This facilitates communication between the victim and a service being impersonated.

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So in the case of Modlishka, it will intercept communication between a genuine service and the hacker now tracks and records the victims’ interactions with the service, and here he can fetch out any credentials shared between the victim and the service.

In addition to these existing vulnerabilities, there are other vulnerabilities in SMS-based 2FA. Another major attack uses Google Play Store and it involves installing applications into your android device without your permission. This happens when a hacker has access to your Google Play Account and Installs apps directly from a computer which will initiate the installation of apps on your Android device.

Attacking on Android

Experiments from several sources have proven that a malicious actor can remotely access a user’s SMS-based 2FA with little or no effort, through the use of a popular app (name and type withheld for security reasons) designed to synchronize user’s notifications across different devices.

Specifically, attackers can put hands over a compromised email/password combination connected to a Google account (such as username@gmail.com) to nefariously install a readily available message mirroring app on a victim’s smartphone via Google Play.

This is the reason why you should think of updating your passwords regularly and remove your Google account from devices that you no longer use.

This is a realistic scenario since it’s common for users to use the same credentials across a variety of services. Using a password manager is an effective way to secure your account.

Once the app is installed, the attacker can apply simple social engineering techniques to convince the user to enable the permissions required for the app to function properly.

For example, they may pretend to be calling from a legitimate service provider to persuade the user to enable the permissions. After this, they can remotely receive all communications sent to the victim’s phone, including one-time codes used for 2FA.

Although multiple conditions must be fulfilled for the aforementioned attack to work, it still demonstrates the fragile nature of SMS-based 2FA methods.

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More importantly, this attack doesn’t need high-end technical capabilities. It simply requires insight into how these specific apps work and how to intelligently use them (along with social engineering) to target a victim.

The threat is even more real when the attacker is a trusted individual (e.g., a family member) with access to the victim’s smartphone.

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How to Protect Your Accounts to Avoid Loss of Information

The most important thing to always do for your account to remain safe is to use a very strong password. This should always be your first line of defense. 

What is a Strong Password? A strong password is a combination of Alphanumeric characters including capitalized letters and symbols. This will be a really tough password to guess.

Your Password should not contain characters of your username. For example, if your username is aimtutorials, then use a password such as TicDZABer7802£@. This way, the hacker can never guess your password and if he intend to brute force it using a word list, it will take him months and even years before he realizes there is no way for him to get such a password. Such passwords should be used on your top rated accounts such as social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google and even Financial accounts such as your Bank accounts. This will avoid your bank account and credit cards from being hacked.

Avoid or just simply limit the use of SMS as a 2FA method.

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You can instead use a 2FA service that generates a one-time code anonymously that will be available for some seconds (usually 15 to 30 seconds). An example of a good app for this is Google Authenticator.

Though sounds as secure, hackers can equally hack such an approach to protect your accounts. It sounds crazy but you should know that they can use sophisticated malware services to get rid or your security layer.

However, you could use another secure method to protect your account which is the use of hardware devices such as YubiKey.

How Hackers Hack Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) in Any System

These are small USB (or near-field communication-enabled) devices that provide a streamlined way to enable 2FA across different services.

Such physical devices need to be plugged into or brought into close proximity of a login device as a part of 2FA, therefore reducing the risks associated with visible one-time codes, such as codes sent by SMS.

It must be stressed an underlying condition to any 2FA alternative is the user themselves must have some level of active participation and responsibility.

However, service providers are to enhance their security measure by adding multi-factor authentication methods which involves the use of several 2FA that are deployed together in order to assure the security of accounts.

To recapitulate, below are the best ways to secure or protect your accounts online from being hacked and stolen.

  • Use Strong Passwords
  • Regularly Change Passwords
  • Use a Secure 2FA method other than SMS
  • Use Google Authenticator
  • Use Dedicated Hardware (Such as YubiKey)

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

The security of our accounts online is very essential an crucial since if in case should there be a little bridge, we could lost everything we have in that account including all our hard work. If you have social accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc and you are an influencer on these social platforms, then I will advice you to use the 5 methods above to secure your account because such influencer accounts are the most targeted accounts by hackers.

Equally, if you have financial accounts such as bank accounts, credit cards etc, then you will want to keep your money secure from being hacked by using the above methods.

So now your the question that stipulates "can 2 factor authentication be hacked, bypassed" has been answered with a big Yes. This is done by using bypassing tools such as brute force, SIM Swapping etc. 

Protect your accounts now and stay safe!!!

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