It was bound to happen: Two-factor authentication (2FA) – that extra step that’s supposed to keep our devices and personal information safe – just no longer cuts it.
The idea behind 2FA is simple: You log into a given account using your user name and password from a new browser, location or device, and you get second authentication request, like a text with a temporary PIN. You enter this temporary code and voila – you’re in. Because most hackers can’t access your phone, your account should be safe. Your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts already should have 2FA set up. If not, learn how to set up 2FA on your most popular accounts using my step-by-step guide.
Technology is always evolving, and cybercriminals have found flaws in the 2FA system – especially if you’re using your personal phone. Hackers are finding ingenious ways to hijack phone numbers.
Wonder how criminals pull it off? I have the scoop on SIM card swaps that is fascinating.
Stay one step ahead of cybercriminals
I’ve got steps you can follow to create a secondary number that directs calls and texts to your primary cellphone. Secondary numbers are common among freelancers and small business owners, who don’t necessarily want to carry around multiple phones.
When you are setting up 2FA, your secondary number keeps your primary phone number safe. If you lose your personal phone, switch carriers or your number gets compromised, your secondary number will remain separate and your 2FA texts will still be accessible via a web browser or another phone.
Get a secondary “burner” number
Google Voice gives you a free phone number for voice calls, texts and voicemail. All you need is an active Google account. Learn how to use Google Voice with my insider tips.
Here's how you set up a Google Voice number:
- Install the Google Voice app, available for iOS and Android. You can also access Google Voice on your computer via a web browser.
- Link your Google account.
- After linking, the app will prompt you to choose a Google Voice number. You can search for available numbers by ZIP code or city, but you’re probably better off taking what they suggest. (I couldn’t get a Google Voice number in my home state of Arizona; the nearest available numbers on the day I set this up were in California and Iowa.)
- After choosing your Google Voice number, you are required to link and verify your account to an active cellphone number. All your Google Voice calls and text messages can be forwarded to this number, too. However, if you’re going to use the Google Voice number for 2FA, you’ll need to go back and disable call forwarding. You can’t use Google Voice for both 2FA and to receive calls and texts. It’s an either-or thing.
- Google will then send a six-digit code to your linked phone number to verify your Google Voice account. Enter this code and make sure they match.
- That's it. You're set to use your Google Voice phone number.
From now on, instead of using your own phone number for that second level of identity verification, you can use your Google Voice number instead.
There's one downside to this method. Since your Google Voice number is tied to your Google account, if hackers manage to compromise your Google account, you're actually back to square one because they'll also have access to your 2FA codes.
Another secure option: Use an authenticator app
In many ways, authenticator apps are much easier and more secure than a text message. They are specifically designed to help with two-factor authentication, and services like Google Authenticator can protect your login and minimize your exposure to hackers.
Google users are especially encouraged to use an authenticator app for your 2FA codes. In addition to Google Authenticator, you can use other authentication apps like Duo, Authy, Microsoft, LastPass or FreeOTP.
Or use a smartphone app
Beside 2FA security, it's almost a necessity to have multiple numbers so you don’t have to give out your personal number. Whether you’re online dating, buying and selling on Craigslist, or traveling, it's smart to have a secondary number to give out.
Using the right app on your smartphone, you can have multiple lines and phone numbers on a single phone. These apps can give you a secondary number for as long as you need it.
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