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Security & privacy

Google is making a major security change for all users – Check your settings

Strong passwords are a given when it comes to protecting your accounts, devices and data, but that’s not enough. Cybercriminals are relentless, and you can never have too much protection. That’s where two-factor authentication comes in. 2FA adds an extra layer of security when you log in to an account or unlock a device.

Beyond your name and password, you’ll need another form of identification to fulfill your 2FA obligation. This can include something only you have access to, such as a code sent to your smartphone. It can also rely on you: a fingerprint or facial scan. Tap or click here to see how 2FA and four other security settings can secure your phone.

It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Google has news. Following an earlier announcement that it would enable its version of 2FA for all users, the tech giant has updated that timeline.

Here’s the backstory

Google offers two-step verification but until recently, enabling it was entirely optional. On World Password Day in May, Google said it would automatically enroll users in 2-step verification if their accounts are appropriately configured. You can check your configuration in the Security Checkup section.

Everything you do online, from opening links in emails to signing into an account, can compromise your security. 2FA can keep the bad actors away even if they have your password.

This week, Google posted an update, saying that it plans to have 150 million users using 2FA by auto-enrolling verified accounts by the end of the year. You can opt out afterward, but we don’t recommend it. In fact, we encourage you to go ahead and enable the security feature right now.

Secure your Google account

You can enroll in Google’s 2-step verification feature by going to Login to your Google account, and you’ll be taken to a page of options.

  • Google prompts let you sign in using your phone instead of or in addition to your password. You’ll get Google prompts on any eligible phone that’s signed into your Google account.
  • You can also enter your phone number to get a 6-digit code sent to your phone via SMS or voice call.

Google recommends you sign in with prompts. It’s easier to use and isn’t vulnerable to phone-based hacks. Google offers more options, including a printable one-time passcode you can use when away from your phone, such as during travel.

Authenticator apps

Authenticator apps generate one-time passcodes that expire after a short time. This way, even if someone manages to get the passcode, they won’t have much time to use it. Google’s Authenticator App is easy to use and works on both Apple and Android smartphones.

RELATED: Authenticator apps from Apple, Microsoft and more

Built-in security keys

Your phone’s built-in security key lets you safely sign in to your accounts. Google will automatically use this security feature when you sign in to new devices. You can only have one built-in security key per Google account, so if you have multiple phones, you’ll have to choose between them.

Go to and log in to your account. Click Add Security Key under the Security Key section and follow the onscreen instructions.

Physical security keys

You can carry around your 2FA in your pocket with a physical security key. These devices can work with your computer and phone via a physical or wireless connection. Even if someone got your password, they wouldn’t be able to access your account without the physical key.

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