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08 June 2015

Comprehensive Guide to PHP Multi-Factor Authentication

Comprehensive Guide to PHP Multi-Factor Authentication
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By Manmeet Anand

Comprehensive-Guide-to-PHP-Multi-Factor-Authentication

Sometimes, we want that our website visitors can access only certain information or certain authorized users can only use the listed features on our site. What we will do in that case? We have to put some authentication factor for making sure that the information that we want to share with certain section of visitors on our site will remain inaccessible for the rest of the visitors.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), as it name suggests combines two or more self-regulating credentials; one is what the users have with them (security token), other is what the users know genuinely (password), and what the user identity is (biometric confirmation). In simple words, Multi-Factor Authentication’s aim is to make a strong and layered defense to make it complex or tedious for the unauthorized users to access certain information like network, computing device, or a physical location.

Before learning how multi-factor authentication can be implemented in website development with PHP, let’s shed some lights on the scenarios where it is needed to be executed.

The common scenarios where MFA is implemented are:

  • Logging into a website by entering requested One Time Password (OTP) that is sent by the website’s authentication server to the requester’s email address or phone number.
  • Scanning fingerprint, swiping in card, and answering a security question
  • Attaching a valid certificate with VPN client and then downloading and logging into the VPN prior to getting access to a network.
  • Generating one time password by attaching a hardware token to a computer this one time password for logging into a VPN client.

Multi-Factor Authentication in PHP Websites

You can use Biometrics for authenticating users on your website, but if you want to implement a more practical approach for executing MFA correctly on your PHP projects is to execute options from two alternatives ways: demanding password or a confirmation token that is sent to the mobile phone of user or you can ask for voice call also. In PHP projects, developers have the option to implement Twilio in their PHP projects as it provides a compatible API and infrastructure that they can apply in their websites to write interactive telephony apps without any difficulty.

Twilio comes with TwilML (Also known as Twilio Markup Language) that helps you to receive and make calls and messages. Let’s understand how we can use MFA in PHP projects.

Using Authentication factor in MFA

In Multi-Factor Authentication, each of the authentication factors is inclined towards boosting guarantee that an entity can use or access the information on a website only if he or she is having the permission to do so. However, there are three common categories of authentication factors that are used in Multi-factor authentication and they are:

  • Knowledge factor
  • Possession factor
  • Inherence factor

Multifactor-authentication
1.Knowledge factors

It consists of the information that users should offer in order to log in and access the information from the website. The elements that fall under this category are username, PINs, passwords, and replies to secret queries.

2.Possession factors

It consists of the information that the users have in their possession for accessing the permissible data such as one –time password, security token, employee ID information, a key fob or a phone’s SIM card.

3.Inherence factors

It consists of the biological traits that the users are confirmed in order to login to the website. In this category, the elements includes biometric methods for authentication such as fingerprint, retina scans, finger veins scans, voice recognition, facial recognition, earlobe geometry or hand geometry.

Technologies of Multi-Factor Authentication

After learning about the factors that are used with Multi-factor authentication in PHP websites, it is vital to explore the technologies of MFA and they are listed as follows:

Soft Tokens

 

Setup-otp-secret

Soft tokens are used as a crucial MFA technology that is commonly used for generating single-use PIN for multi-factor mobile authentication in Smartphones. It includes the software based security applications for generating the single-use login PINs.

Security Tokens

 

security-key-card

It consists of the small hardware equipment that the users carry for authenticating themselves for accessing the protected network. The equipment could be a smart card or it can be integrated as a USB drive of a key fob. The security tokens falls under possession factor of the multi-factor authentication method however; in case of websites built in PHP framework, software tokens are given more importance above the security tokens.

Mobile Authentication

 

my-compony

In this MFA technology, several variations of multi-factor authentication are used like sending phone calls or SMS to the users, Smartphone One time password applications, smartcards and SIM cards with hoarded information.

Biometric Authentication Methods

Biometric-Authentication-Methods

Again when we talk about the biometrics technology used in MFA, it includes scanning of finger prints, finger veins, retina of eye, voice and face recognition, iris scans etc.

Authentication in PHP

When we talk about the proper execution of MFA in PHP, request based authentication is most commonly used method, which requires users to provide credentials for posting an authentication script. When it will be authenticated, the credentials can be used for storing and encrypting in a session on the server, in database operated sessions or in cookies of the client side.

In PHP, HTTP authentication using headers is also supported that triggers the web browser to open the user and password dialog. Basically, two types of authentication methods are available for implementing MFA in PHP:

  • Basic authentication: It is not so much secured because the credentials of the users can be transferred via plain text. Hence, it is advised to be used over a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connection.
  • Digest authentication: This method is used in PHP 5.1 that allows the encryption of credentials thus adding additional security layer to the authentication process. Apart from these two authentication methods, there are other classes of authentication also available for PHP that helps you to choose the one that fits your website’s requirements.

Concluding Words

Multi-factor authentication is not about adding layer of security to the confidentiality of your website, but it is the act of maintaining balance between the secrecy of the resources and information that we can to secure along with the amount of inconvenience that might be cause to our website’s visitors while going through this process.

If you understand the appropriate execution of MFA in your projects, you will definitely choose the authentication process in the best possible way for offering a more secured environment of data transmission between your site and your visitors. If you have any questions or suggestions related with the multi-factor authentication process, you can post your queries or comments below.

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