Do you worry about the security of your accounts? Do you worry about losing control of your online identity? Multi-factor authentication (MFA/2FA) is one step that can help. What does MFA or 2FA actually mean? Beyond the simple username and password, MFA requires additional verification method(s), which decreases the likelihood that your account will be compromised. By compromise, I mean that another person would be using your account in addition to you. Yes, your account could be used by someone else, and you could not know it!
Multi-factor authentication can be three different aspects:
- Things you know, like a password, PIN, or Security Questions
- Things you have, like a phone application, token, or code fob
- Things you are, like your fingerprint, retina, or voice
For critical accounts, like your bank, email, and social media, you should always turn on multi-factor authentication. This extra factor can be a text you get when you log in with your username and password, an application on your phone, or a fingerprint scan. The added layer of protection from MFA means that someone needs to do more than guess your password to access your account.
Most applications and websites provide options for MFA. One of the most popular options is the text to your cell phone. While it is not the most secure, it is usually convenient. I highly recommend using a code-generating application on your phone, like Google Authenticator, for their security and convenience. There is an important caveat to remember with code generators. They are generally tied to the hardware of the device. If you change phones without switching the authenticator app, you will have to use a backup method to access your accounts. When setting up MFA on your account, be mindful of having a backup method, like a list of printed codes, alternate email account, or text.
The bad guys continue accelerating their attempts to hijack accounts. They have many different motivations. Regardless of their purpose, be it financial, reputational, or even mischief, you need to protect yourself. Do yourself a favor in advance, and add layers of protection to the accounts that are important to you.