You’ve probably heard about two-factor authentication by now. Every time there’s a new data breach somewhere and hundreds of thousands of email addresses and passwords are published online an expert appears on television to advise everyone that they should change their passwords and enable two-factor authentication.
Although this might sound suspiciously like much of the other tech mumbo jumbo that makes normal people’s eyes glaze over, it’s worth paying attention to the experts and going through the small amount of pain necessary to get this done. You only have to do it once for each service you use and once you’ve done it you’re much more secure.
Two-factor authentication uses a very old security principle called “something you know, something you have”. This is the principle used in your ATM card. The “something you know” is your PIN number, the “something you have” is your card. For your online accounts the “something you know” is your password and the “something you have” is your phone.
If it makes it any easier you can refer to it as ‘blue tractor investigation’ throughout the whole process. So go and enable it for your main email account. If you have your phone next to you it only takes a few minutes.
If this all sounds like a bit too much of a hassle, read this account of the speed with which hackers ruined journalist Mat Honan’s digital life by running a password reset on his Gmail account. If he’d had two-factor authentication switched on it’s unlikely any of this would have happened.