Online account hacking isn’t a new thing, but in the last 12 months a number of high profile accounts have been hacked including the destruction of Wired contributor Mat Honan’s entire digital life. While the NSA may be able to get all of your information directly from your online service providers, there’s no reason for your accounts to be vulnerable to attacks because of weak security. Two-factor authentication may sound complicated but all it does is add in another password from something that is unique to you, your smartphone, to make sure that you are the person logging into your account.

Many online services offer two-factor authentication, this article will cover the 3 big ones, Microsoft, Google and Facebook (Twitter’s two-factor authentication doesn’t work in South Africa yet)

Google

  1. Log into your Google account go to account settings then navigate to the Security section on the left-hand side
  2. Go down to the 2-step verification section and click edit.
  3. Follow Google’s step-by-step guide to link your account with the number of a cell phone or land line (we recommend a cell phone so that you can log in even when you’re not at home). Google will either text or call you at that number to provide a six-digit code every time you try to log into your Google Account from an “untrusted” device

 

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Alternatives:

  • You can also generate one-time use codes that you can print to use when you want to log into your Google Account and you don’t have your device on you.
  • Or download the Google Authenticator app for iOS in the iTunes Store or for Android in the Google Play Store and set up a time based rotating password.

 

Facebook

  1. Log into Facebook and click on the blue settings cog icon in the top-right corner, then click on your Account Settings menu and select the Security section on the left-hand side
  2. Enable the Login Approvals feature
  3. Follow Facebook’s step-by-step process

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Alternatives:

  • Just like with Google you can setup Facebook to use the Google authenticator app to generate a password by adding a new site in the app.
  • Or save a list of 10 one time use passwords in case you don’t have your device near you

Microsoft

  1. Log into your Microsoft account and go to the security section of your Microsoft Account summary page.
  2. Turn on two-step verification and follow the setup process.

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Alternatives

  • Once again you can download an authenticator app that will generate security codes for you. Windows Phone users can download Microsoft’s own authenticator app from the Windows Store or use the Google authenticator app for Android and iOS users.
  • Microsoft also supports sending you code to other cell phone numbers or email addresses you have added to your account.

 

While two-factor authentication sounds like it will make your life more difficult when you quickly want to login to see something ion your account, think of how much more difficult it would be to have to contact Facebook to get them to reset your password because your account has potentially been stolen and used to make racial slurs to your boss.

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David is a technology enthusiast with an insatiable thirst for information. He tends to get excited over new hardware and will often be the one in the room going "Its got 17 cores, 64GB of RAM and a 5" 4K flexible OLED display, oh it makes phone calls too?" Currently uses: Too many phones. Wants: World peace... and more phones.