Why SMS Authentication Works and How Your Business Can Adopt it

SMS authentication is an easy-to-use and widely adopted practice that protects customer accounts from bad actors. In this blog post, learn the benefits of SMS-based authentication, how it works and what to look for when choosing an SMS authentication service.

What is SMS authentication?

SMS authentication is a popular form of two-factor authentication that’s used by companies of all sizes across various industries. Also known as SMS 2FA, SMS authentication gives users an added layer of security when they log into or manage an account on a website or application. And among many other applications, SMS 2FA is also commonly used for resetting passwords. The way it works is pretty straightforward:

  1. The user initiates log in or an account management activity.
  2. The website or application will send a text message (SMS) to the user’s phone, which contains a unique, one-time password (OTP).
  3. The user enters the code into the application or website’s login screen to verify their identity.

Companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Dropbox and Uber trust SMS authentication because it’s a secure, simple and seamless method of identity verification that many customers prefer to use over other methods that may be more cumbersome (e.g., email or authenticator apps).

What are the benefits of SMS authentication?

For customers, SMS-based authentication is convenient. According to Kelly Robinson, a security advocate at Twilio, a solid 2FA option should strike a balance between friction and usability. It should offer enough friction so that a bad actor has a hard time breaking into an account, and its usability should be easy enough that customers can successfully access their accounts. SMS fits both criteria.

SMS authentication is the most popular form of 2FA among consumers, and that speaks to its ease of usability—a text delivers the OTP right to their screen. There isn’t an extra step of opening an email inbox to find the OTP and there’s no extra app to download in order to benefit from the safety features of 2FA. Users don’t even need a smartphone. As long as their phone can receive text messages, they can take advantage of SMS authentication.

Two-factor SMS is also secure. A year-long study from Google found that SMS-based authentication blocked 100% of automated bots, 96% of bulk phishing attacks and 76% of targeted attacks when sent to a recovery phone number.

Two-factor authentication (in any form) only works if users choose to adopt it. A great way to encourage adoption is by providing them with multiple options that are simple to use, and SMS is a reliable choice to include.

What to look for in an SMS 2FA service

When looking for an SMS 2FA service, a popular avenue is to go through an SMS aggregator, which acts as the bridge between texting software and wireless carriers. When looking at aggregators, focus on the Tier 1 providers because they have direct connectivity to all the major mobile carriers. For comparison, Tier 2 providers don’t connect to all the major carriers and must rely on third-party providers to send and receive messages for the other carriers.

When paired with toll-free texting, Tier 1 connectivity benefits SMS authentication in a number of ways, including:

  • High throughput and fast, reliable delivery. You’ll want to ensure that all of your customers receive a 2FA text message as soon as they request it. Working with a Tier 1 provider on toll-free allows your business to send thousands of messages at a time. And because you’d have direct connectivity to the carriers, you can expect reliable, fast deliverability without any of the extra steps that could occur between the sending and delivery process when using third-party providers.
  • Messages are kept safe. A 2FA text message should pass through a secure network that protects its content in transit and at rest. Ensure that the aggregator is SOC2 compliant, which is recognized as the gold standard for data security.
  • Faster support. Speed to resolution is paramount when issues arise. A Tier 1 provider removes any barriers between your product and the carriers so you won’t have to manage multiple ticketing systems when you need help.
  • Easy toll-free setup and maintenance. A Tier 1 provider can text-enable your existing toll-free phone number quickly, and getting a new number is fast, too. Once you’re set up on toll-free, management is easy because there isn’t any ongoing administrative overhead to maintain it.

Partnering with a Tier 1 toll-free provider ensures that you can provide customers with the best SMS authentication experience possible without interruptions.

Using Zipwhip for SMS Authentication

You’ll find a powerful SMS 2FA service in Zipwhip thanks to our carrier relationships and security standards. Not only are we SOC2 Type 2 compliant, but we’re the only SMS aggregator that all Tier 1 and 2 wireless operators trust to manage their network-level connectivity for high-volume commercial traffic.

Plus, Zipwhip created the texting-for-business industry, including the toll-free texting network, so we control the network capacity, speed, security and safeguards. Our connectivity means we take care of navigating all the carrier complexities so you don’t have to.

Ready to get started with SMS authentication? Connect with our API team today.

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