What Is It:
Also known as two-factor authentication and two-step verification. No matter what you call it, multi-factor authentication, or MFA, is a security measure that requires anyone logging into an account to navigate a two-step process to prove their identity. It makes it twice as hard for criminals to access an online account. When it’s available, always turn it on because it’s easy to do and greatly increases your security.
How It Works:
By adding one more simple step when logging into an account, multi-factor authentication greatly increases the security of your account. Here’s how it works. Just like logging into your account, the first step is giving your password or passphrase. The second step is to provide an extra way of proving that you’re you, like entering a PIN code or texting/emailing a code to your mobile device, or accessing an authenticator app.
MFA can include
- A extra PIN (personal identification number)
- The answer to an extra security question like, “What’s your favorite pet’s name?”
- An additional code either emailed to an account or texted to a mobile number
- A biometric identifier like facial recognition or a fingerprint
- A unique number generated by an “Authenticator App”
- A secure token, which is a separate piece of hardware (like a key fob that holds information) that verifies a person’s identity with a database or system
Have you noticed how often security breaches, stolen data, and identity theft are consistently front-page news these days? Perhaps you, or someone you know, are a victim of cyber criminals who stole personal information, banking credentials, or more. As these incidents become more prevalent, you should consider using multi-factor authentication, also called strong authentication, or two-factor authentication. This technology may already be familiar to you, as many banking and financial institutions require both a password and one of the following to log in: a call, email, or text containing a code. By applying these principles of verification to more of your personal accounts, such as email, social media, and more, you can better secure your information and identity online!
When Should It Be Used:
MFA should be used to add an additional layer of security around sites containing sensitive information, or whenever enhanced security is desirable. MFA makes it more difficult for unauthorized people to log in as the account holder. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) MFA should be used whenever possible, especially when it comes to your most sensitive data—like your primary email, financial accounts, and health records. Some organizations will require you to use MFA; with others it is optional. If you have the option to enable it, you should take the initiative to do so to protect your data and your identity.
Activate MFA On Your Accounts Right Away
To learn how to activate MFA on your accounts, head to the Lock Down Your Login site, which provides instructions on how to apply this stronger form of security to many common websites and software products you may use. If any of your accounts are not listed on that resource site, look at your account settings or user profile and check whether MFA is an available option. If you see it there, consider implementing it right away! User names and passwords are no longer sufficient to protect accounts with sensitive information. By using multifactor authentication, you can protect these accounts and reduce the risk of online fraud and identify theft. Consider also activating this feature on your social media accounts!