Welcome to the Covve Security Series, our new blog series on how to protect yourself and your business online. Good cybersecurity hygiene is critical in the age of data breaches, ransomware, and other digital threats. Over the next few months, we will share some quick and easy steps you can take to effectively enhance your digital security and safeguard your data.
Last week we talked about how using a password manager to create, store, and fill unique passwords can help you safeguard your digital accounts. Even with strong passwords, however, hackers and other nefarious actors still have all kinds of tricks they can use to gain unauthorized access to your accounts, whether that be phishing attacks or sophisticated social engineering techniques used to get companies to cough up sensitive information that they shouldn’t be giving out.
For an additional layer of protection, you can use two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires a second piece of information in order to verify your identity when you login to an account. If you have 2FA enabled, even if your password was stolen in a data breach, hackers won’t be able to gain access to your account without the 2FA code that goes with it.
There are two common methods used for two-factor authentication: SMS and dedicated authentication apps. SMS-based authentication uses a unique, one-time code sent to you by text message as a second factor when logging in. Dedicated authentication apps generate a unique software token and allow you to keep all of your 2FA accounts in one place.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Check to see which apps and websites support 2FA.
TwoFactorAuth.org provides a comprehensive and up-to-date list of all the companies and services that support two-factor authentication. Check to see which accounts you can enable it on.
2. Start with your more sensitive accounts.
You may not need the extra layer of security on all of your accounts, so it’s best to start with the ones that need it most. Think bank, investment, social media, email, file storage, and payment accounts. Make a list of the most important accounts that you want to safeguard.
3. Use a dedicated authentication app wherever possible.
SMS-based authentication has one major downside, codes sent via text message are at risk of interception. For the strongest security, use a dedicated authentication app on your phone to generate codes, such as Google Authenticator or the 2FA feature built-in to your password manager.
4. Enable two-factor authentication.
Work your way through your list. Once you have enabled 2FA for an account, copy and paste the code generated by your 2FA app to login into your account. For businesses, think about requiring two-factor authentication for all employee work accounts.
While they may seem like pretty simple tools, when combined, unique passwords generated by a password manager and two-factor authentication serve as a potent defense mechanism against even the most dedicated of would-be hackers. Locking down your accounts will minimize the impact of data breaches and help keep your data safe.