There is something I do that makes me feel like James Bond, 007 himself when it comes to security and secret codes. That’s Two Factor Authentication or 2FA. OK, yes, I’m a nerd but still, it’s pretty cool and it REALLY improves your security!
Two Factor (sometimes called Multifactor) means logging into a system with 2 or more things. It’s something you know like a password plus something you “have” or “are”. The “have” can be your cell phone, special key fob or USB stick. The something you “are” can be your fingerprint, eye scan or similar.
We use a free Google app called Google Authenticator. It has a code for all the systems we have extra security on and those codes change every few seconds within the app. It pretty cool looking.
So let’s say a bad guy gets your password. It may not even be your fault! Bad guys constantly get passwords in a ton of different ways. Normally, they can now do anything you can do because the system thinks they ARE you. This may mean emptying your bank account, damaging all your data, pictures, documents, emails, etc. Worse, they often impersonate you and trick family, friends, coworkers and cause them damage as well. It’s embarrassing, painful and usually very expensive.
With 2FA, even if they have your password, they need something else. When you login with 2FA, you also need something else. For example, it may send a pin to your cell phone that changes every 6 seconds (James Bond-ish!). Or you may have to put a password in AND let an app scan your fingerprint.
A ton of apps support 2FA:
- Facebook (If someone got into your Facebook account, do you think that could go bad?)
- Most banks (What if a bad guy emptied out your bank account? Think the bank would put it back if they had your password? Guess again… it’s not their fault)
- Many business apps
- E-mail Systems
- Amazon and other online sites
- Just to name a few!
One of the best things to turn on 2FA is email. Once it is on, your email is dramatically more secure than with just a password. E-mail is one of the favorite attack vectors for hackers. Once they are in your email, they can do a lot of damage and potentially make a lot of money in several ways. Even if they figure out your password, with 2FA, that’s not enough!
Passwords are such a weak point for so many critical systems. Two factor not only stops hackers in their tracks, most systems let you use it for free! This is just one way you can greatly improve security and protect yourself without a lot of effort.