How to keep your accounts safe: Turn on two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication.If you want to keep your online accounts safe, adding two-factor authentication (2FA) is the most important step you can take.

While no security measure is 100 percent hack resistant, 2FA will go a long way in blocking access to your important accounts.

As the name suggests, 2FA adds another level of authentication to the login process. It means that in addition to your username and password, you need something else to get into your account – and with a myriad of credentials regularly published online, it’s in your best interest to take that extra step.

We’ve covered 2FA before, but there have been some useful updates since then. Here we will detail exactly what 2FA is, how it works and how to set it up. It doesn’t take long to put 2FA in place, and the next time someone else tries to access your account with a stolen set of credentials, you’ll be glad you did.

How to keep your accounts safe: Turn on two-factor authentication

two-factor authentication

How two-factor authentication works

Signing in to your accounts with an email address and password is fine, to a degree, but these details can be lost, stolen, guessed, or teased out with smart social engineering. 2FA adds another barrier to access for unauthorized visitors who have obtained your primary credentials.

Two-factor authentication – and the similar two-step authentication, which is sometimes treated as a different mechanism and sometimes not – means that in addition to your password and email address, you need a bit of information. Usually, in most consumer apps, it is a text message code sent to your phone or a code generated by a special authentication app.

When you set up 2FA, you are asked to prove that you are the owner of your phone and its mobile number, and that gives you permission to generate and receive codes. Unless hackers gain access to your phone and your email address and password, they cannot log in. 2FA codes are also sometimes sent via email and in some cases can be replaced with a physical object such as a USB key, which you must include in your account (Google offers this as an option).

Authentication codes work alongside your usernames and passwords. Thanks to Authy

Most services and accounts don’t require this extra code every time you open the app or site – that would get annoying very quickly. Instead, 2FA comes into action when you try to log in to a new device that you have not used before or that you have not used for a long time, such as a new phone or laptop that has not been linked to your account in the past.