Se­cure your ac­counts with two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion


Special to the Whig

In this sea­son of trav­el­ing, shop­ping and giv­ing, it’s tempt­ing to make your pass­words and lo­gins su­per-sim­ple, to save time and the has­sle of hav­ing to re­mem­ber them. It is pre­cisely be­cause of this hec­tic time of year we rec­om­mend in­creas­ing se­cu­rity mea­sures to pro­tect your on­line ac­counts.

Many times, when you log into a web­site, you use just your user­name and pass­word. This is called sin­gle-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion, and un­for­tu­nately it of­ten does not pro­vide enough se­cu­rity — pass­words can be stolen and ac­counts can be hacked.

You may want to try some­thing more se­cure to pre­vent hack­ers from gain­ing ac­cess to your in­ter- net ac­counts. Even if you’re not sure what it is, you prob­a­bly al­ready use a higher level of se­cu­rity called “two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion” in some ar­eas of your life.

Two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion (also writ­ten as “2fa”), as the name im­plies, re­quires two fac­tors: some­thing you know, like a pass­word, and some­thing you have, like a phone. When you gas up your car and have to en­ter your zip code after in­sert­ing your credit card, you are us­ing two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion.

When you set up two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion on an ac­count, your two fac­tors are of­ten your user name and pass­word (some­thing you know) and a code that is sent to your phone (some­thing you have). There are other op­tions for 2fa, but many web­sites just text your phone. De­pend­ing on the type of ac­count, you may be re­quired to en­ter your code each time you log into your ac­count, but some­times you just en­ter the code the first time you log in us­ing a smart­phone, tablet or com­puter that you didn’t use pre­vi­ously to ac­cess your ac­count.

Set­ting up 2fa is usu­ally quick and easy. If you have a phone, it is free. While in­clud­ing 2fa in your on­line se­cu­rity plan is a good idea, you should con­sider a few fac­tors be­fore de­cid­ing if it is the best op­tion for you.

You will likely have to pro­vide your phone num­ber to the ac­count you are se­cur­ing, so they can text you. If you lose your phone, you will have a harder time ac­cess­ing your pro­tected ac­count, though there are of­ten backup op­tions. Even though 2fa is a great way to se­cure your ac­count, don’t as­sume that it makes that ac­count in­vul­ner­a­ble. De­ter­mined hack­ers can still gain ac­cess to it.

If you have de­cided to use 2fa, start with your most sen­si­tive ac­counts: those which in­volve money, such as an on­line bank, PayPal or some­where that you may have stored a credit card to shop, such as Ama­zon, Google, or iTunes. Be aware that your new se­cu­rity mea­sure isn’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be called “two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion.” Ama­zon’s ver­sion is called twostep au­then­ti­ca­tion, and is set up by go­ing to Ama­zon’s ad­vanced se­cu­rity set­tings.

Es­pe­cially if you post to so­cial me­dia for work, con­sider se­cur­ing your so­cial me­dia ac­counts. Face­book se­cu­rity was men­tioned in an ear­lier li­brary col­umn. While not yet avail­able to ev­ery­one, In­sta­gram started to roll out their own 2fa ear­lier this year. Check your set­tings to see if you can turn it on. Both Twit­ter and WordPress have 2fa avail­able.

Us­ing 2fa can also add a valu­able se­cu­rity layer for email. To see if it’s avail­able for your spe­cific email client, check

With just a few steps, you can give your­self a lit­tle ex­tra se­cu­rity. Good luck with 2fa!

Each week, li­brar­i­ans at Ce­cil County Pub­lic Li­brary will use their in­for­ma­tion and re­search ex­per­tise to high­light re­sources, tools and ideas ex­plor­ing a va­ri­ety of top­ics, such as small busi­ness, job seek­ing, dig­i­tal ser­vices, tech­nol­ogy, read­ing and learn­ing. For in­for­ma­tion as­sis­tance on to­day’s topic or others, con­tact them: ask@cc­, face­book. com/ ce­cil­coun­ty­pub­li­cli­brary, 410-996-5600 x481 or ce­cil.

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