Much of our lives happen on mobile devices, laptops, websites, and an ever-increasing array of online services. So it’s no wonder that our digital accounts and data have become a prime target for hackers and criminals. We frequently see headlines about another website or company getting hacked and the personal data of their users being stolen. As cybercrime continues to get more sophisticated, old security approaches are no match for modern threats and tactics. To address these threats, you can greatly improve your cyber security and better protect your sensitive information by using two-factor authentication.
What is two-factor authentication?
Two-factor authentication (also referred to as “2FA”) is a method of confirming a user’s identity by using a combination of two different factors: 1) something they know, 2) something they have, or 3) something they are. An example of 2FA that we have all used for many years is your ATM card. To withdraw money from an ATM, you have to have the correct combination of a bank card (something you have) and a personal identification number (something you know).
This 2FA approach can also be applied to protect your digital world, such as your account at online stores and banks, email accounts, websites, and other sensitive information. The most commonly used technique for two-factor authentication is the use of SMS text messages that send a code directly to your phone. When you attempt to log in to a site for the first time, the site sends a unique, one-time passcode via text message to your cell phone, and you enter that code to gain access.
Two-factor authentication provides a vital extra layer of security. Prior to 2FA, most people used only one layer of security: their password. When you use a second verification layer, it means that even if a hacker gets through your password layer, they still must also have your cell phone to get into your account.
Why passwords alone are inadequate:
Too many accounts to remember
Most of us have numerous logins and passwords to keep up with, and the list on constantly growing. This challenge creates too many passwords to remember and paves the way for a dangerous vulnerability, password recycling.
Many people use the same credentials/password for your accounts. Hackers love this, because it takes just seconds for hacking software to test stolen sign-in credentials against popular online sites. If your username and password are “recycled,” it’s very likely that it can be used to access your accounts on other sites.
To better protect themselves, some people try to create more complex passwords and passphrases, but with so many accounts to keep up with, many eventually give up and fall back to using weak passwords or password recycling.
Bypass this stress by using a password manager to help you securely store your passwords and avoid these common password missteps. Check out my previous article for tips and recommendations on the best password manager apps and services.
Quick, easy setup
Most banks, e-commerce sites, and email service providers all offer two-factor authentication with their services. Just go to the settings for your account and select the option to enable 2FA for your account. After enabling 2FA, the next time you log in to your account, you will be sent a verification code via text message, and you will enter the code to access your account. Once you go through the 2FA process with that device (your cell phone or PC), the site will recognize that device as a “trusted device” the next time you access the site and won’t prompt you for the 2FA process and code again. It’s a quick, simple, one-time step that will greatly improve your security. Set up two-factor authentication today and take a big step forward to keep your digital world secure.