Two-factor authentication…sounds complicated, right? Actually, it is a fairly simple concept that can increase the security of your accounts exponentially. I recommend it for all of your digital accounts
The basic law of internet security is that there is a direct correlation between convenience and security. The more convenient it is for you to access your account, the easier it is for nefarious cyber attackers to do the same. As you apply layers of security to your account the ease of access to that account will naturally decrease. However, it will be much harder for criminals to gain access.
So, what is two-factor authentication and should I use it?
Let’s first start by talking about the three basic types of authentication. There is something you know, something you have, and something you are. For many people, a simple password is all they use to secure their account. This is something they know (a password, phrase, or key combination). Something you have would be a key generator on your phone, a service that texts a code to your phone, or maybe a thumb drive that has a key loaded on it. The ‘something you are’ category includes biometric scanners that detect fingerprints, facial recognition, or speech detection.
Two-factor simply means employing two of these methods in tandem to access your account. It creates an added layer of complexity to anyone that will try to access your account maliciously. The bad-guy will need more than just your account credentials to gain access, they will also need access to your locked phone (please tell me you lock your phone).
Here’s a little graphic from Google to help explain it.
If you are wondering if you should use two-factor or not, I always advise people to turn it on. It makes it extremely hard to hack an account with only a password and doesn’t really pose much of a risk to the user.
Doesn’t two-factor authentication make signing into my account more cumbersome?
As I stated before, there is a trade-off between convenience and security. However, two-factor authentication is only required the first time you log on to an account from a new device or browser. You won’t need to enter the key code each time you access your account on your home PC, just the initial log on. This is to assure any new devices is authorized to access this account. You can always uncheck the option to remember you on the computer (recommended for public PCs) which will require you to enter the code.
How do I turn it on?
Most popular sites and apps have the option for two-factor authentication buried in their security or privacy settings. I’ll show you how to do it in Google (most other sites have a similar process). Follow these steps after you have logged into your Google Account.
Step 1: Access Your Account Settings
Step 2: Click “My Account” button.
Step 3: Click “Signing in to Google” under the Sign-In & Security section.
Step 4: Click the 2-Step Verification button in the Password & Sign-In Method section.
Step 5: Click “Get Started”
Step 6: Enter your password and click “Next”.
Step 7: Verify the phone number (it will use the phone number that was used when the account was created) and click “Next”. You can also select whether you would like the code sent via text or phone call.
Step 8: Enter the code that was texted to you and click “Next.
Step 9: Click “Turn On”.
That’s it! You have now made it super difficult to hack your Google account. This process is similar to other sites, some screens may be different and terms may change, but the premise is the same.
Note: Google has also introduced a log on prompt instead of a code texted to you.