Secure your accounts with 2-step authentication

November 23, 2015

Most of our data nowadays can be found online; and hackers are always trying to get into our accounts and find it. Passwords may work effectively but most can still be broken thanks to password cracking software. And when you do create one that is really complex, you can fall into one of the scams used to acquire users’ passwords.

If you want total security, or close to it, you can either be extremely careful or step it up through 2-step authentication. This is a measure included by most companies to enhance security by requesting for a second proof of ownership to an account; which could be a code sent to your mobile phone or generated by an app connected to the company.

SMS and email verification

This is the simplest method and only requires that you add your phone number and alternative email address when signing up for an account. Afterwards, whenever you try to sign into the account from a different computer or device, a code is automatically sent either to your mobile phone or email. You then have to enter this code before you can access the account.

App-based authentication

For this to work, you must install the app from the company with which you created an account. The most popular app is Google Authenticator which generates random codes which can be used for a specific period of time. The generated code can then be used to log into any of Google’s services.

The second similar method doesn’t require codes, but just verification from a recognized app. Twitter is a good example; when you install the app onto your Android or Apple device, you can turn on the ‘login verification’ option, which basically makes your device act as a signature. Afterwards, when you log into your account from a different device or computer, you have to verify the login from the device with the app installed.

Physical authentication keys

These are for the really security-conscious, but could get more usage with time. It’s a physical device which you plug into your computer’s USB port and verifies you as the owner of the account. For the moment, they can only be used on computers, but hopefully they’ll be Bluetooth or NFC enabled in the future to work with mobile devices.

Why you should use it

I do a lot of transactions online, and I have had numerous occasions when Microsoft or Google have warned me of ‘suspicious activity’. Thankfully, my 2-step verification was in place and my accounts remained secure.

Everyone should definitely strive to make their accounts more secure, and these are the simplest ways to do so. And if recent statistics on cybercrime are anything to go by (over 5 million in the UK alone), then we should take this issue seriously.

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