Security Tools: A Guide to Hardware 2FA

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Multi-factor authentication or MFA concept. Vector illustration
How hardware two-factor authentication can be used with darknet accounts, instead of using a proprietary program on an identifiable smartphone.

Hardware two-factor authentication (2FA) could be a much better alternative on dark web marketplaces for creating a solid security measure without the use of a program on an identifiable smart phone.

Two-factor authentication is an important security measure for the digital world, and should be on all users’ accounts.

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Across the dark web, many account providers have started providing two-factor security measures for logins, including on darknet marketplaces.

With a general heightening of risk on the dark web from phishing sites and other sources of malicious programs, it is important to utilize these methods of securing your accounts.

But some users would rather not load dark web-associated logins into mobile 2FA programs such as Google Authenticator.

Is hardware 2FA a better option? Is there a way to use 2FA without adding another digital device to the darknet profiles we’ve set up?

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (shorthanded to 2FA) is an incredibly useful method of adding a redundancy to any one security measure implemented.

Digitally this is seen as a means of adding something else to a simple password access, but it can and does extend to all forms of security. It ultimately ensures the person attempting to gain access to something secure is holding two unique pieces of information.

This can take many forms, and in the physical word it might look like putting a safe inside of your house.

The two factors of authentication in this situation would be the safe combination itself and the locks on your house. With any one factor broken, someone is unable to access the contents of the safe; having the safe combination is irrelevant if you’re unable to get inside the house, and having the house keys makes no difference in accessing the safe contents if you have no safe combination.

Two-factor authentication such as this exists all around us and it’s little wonder this has finally started to gain momentum into the digital wold.

Passwords are never really enough when securing accounts online. They provide a very decent first form of security if they are used properly, but it is only recently that users have been forced to start setting complex passwords, and even then, a person is still the weakest link, often setting stupidly simple passwords, using the same passwords across all accounts (so if one database is breached, all their accounts are popped) and negligently entering the password into a malicious phishing site.

Digital 2FA for Your Dark Web Account

Darknet markets will contain a pretty decent amount of information that you will want to keep safe. Beyond just the funds held within the site itself, the purchase history is generally saved, any conversations that are unencrypted, as well as the cryptocurrency input addresses which alone might not mean much but can link back to clear accounts if you follow the transaction history.

It is therefore important to secure these accounts as much as possible.

There are a few different forms of 2FA that will work with your dark web accounts (accounts like marketplace logins). The most common is using a software 2FA that runs on your phone.

Hardware 2FA

2FA word cloud, Two Factor Authentication. Cyber & Security concept.
Hardware two-factor authentication (2FA) could be a much better alternative on dark web marketplaces for creating a solid security measure without the use of a program on an identifiable smart phone.

The most-used hardware 2FA is the YubiKey, which acts as a physical key for the digital world. Alone it does nothing, but in conjunction with a password, it can unlock your accounts. This is an important addition, since one is software and one is (effectively) hardware, meaning one exists on computers and the other in the physical world.

This can increase the security significantly, since an attacker would need both physical access to your keychain, as well as your password access.

Arguably, someone who has breached your phone has the skills to breach both your password and your 2FA (although the chance might be pretty remote).

It works in a few different ways with a few different settings, but the underlying method is the same as a phone 2FA.

The standout reason why this method of 2FA is arguably the best for dark web users is that it removes the need to load anything onto another possibly breakable device. By using a hardware 2FA method such as a YubiKey, you’re able to get the full effects of a multi factored security measure without loading anything further onto your phone—which would be like mixing the two worlds.

Yes, you could keep a smartphone entirely dedicated to the dark web removed from your real identity, but it just isn’t cost-effective or necessary. A hardware 2FA will get the job done; all it takes is the key itself and the authenticator program, and you’ll be able to add it to any dark web account that allows 2FA to be added. No more excuses.

Con

Con

Con's education background is law, where he's published on crypto-currency regulation. His opinion editorials range across the relationships between people and technology and the societal challenges it presents. His passion is for information security and the intertwining legal issues
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