Protecting your online accounts from unauthorized access is essential to protecting your privacy online. Along with using strong passwords, one of the best ways to secure your accounts is to use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) wherever it is available.
Table of Contents
- What is 2FA?
- Install a Software Authentication App
- Enabling 2FA
What is 2FA?
Two-Factor Authentication (also known as Two-Step Authentication) adds an extra step when you log in to an online service. In addition to the usual password, you will be prompted for a second piece of information, such as a PIN that changes automatically over time. While it depends on the site, this can be generated by a hardware device, a software program, or sent as an SMS text message. By requiring this second piece of information, you can significantly reduce the chances of your account being compromised.
Note: Whenever possible, you should choose software or hardware based 2FA. Text message 2FA is vulnerable to attacks.
Install a Software Authentication App
The easiest way to start using two-factor authentication is to install a software authentication app. Once the app is installed, you can begin securing your accounts with 2FA. Typically, this will involve scanning a QR code using a mobile device and then confirming the code on the website.
For most users, Authy is the easiest solution for using 2FA. The app is available on multiple devices including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. You are able to share 2FA codes across multiple devices which makes it easier to use than some other apps. As an example, you can access your 2FA codes on your computer without needing to have your mobile phone nearby.
Note: Authy is not open source software. However, it offers many conveniences — such as the ability to sync codes across devices — that make it worth using. If you prefer an open source solution, FreeOTP is a good choice.
Authy stores your data in the cloud to allow it to sync across devices. They do not store your password, so they cannot access your codes.
- Add a New Two Factor Authentication (2FA) Account Token in the Authy App
- Enable and Disable Authy Multi-Device
- Enable and Disable Authy Backups
Once you have Authy (or another 2FA solution) up and running, you should begin securing your accounts. You should begin by securing your most important accounts – for example email and banking accounts – and move on from there. In general you should enable two-factor authentication wherever it is available.
An excellent resource for finding out if a site supports 2FA is 2fa.directory.