It's scary when you realize the only thing protecting your sensitive online accounts and information from hackers and snoops is one password. Sure, you can make a strong, unbreakable password.
Passwords can be so hard to remember unless you use a powerful and safe password manager and form filler.
Maybe hackers get your password from a data breach at a major company. No matter how it happens, the bottom line is that you really need more security for your sensitive accounts. Fortunately, many accounts have extra security available, if you know where to look.
I'm talking about two-factor authentication, also called two-step verification. Don't let the fancy name throw you, it just means that to log in to your account you need two ways to prove you are who you say you are. It's like the bank or DMV asking for two forms of ID.
The idea is that a hacker is going to have a much harder time getting both forms of ID, and it's true. Most major services and companies, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, offer two-factor authentication now, and I'm going to tell you what you'll need to make it work and how to turn it on for your accounts.
What you'll need
When it comes to using two-factor authentication (I'm shortening it to 2FA for the rest of this article) both "factors" or "steps" can't be passwords you created. Otherwise it would be too easy for hackers to trick you into giving them.
In most cases, one of the "factors" is a randomly generated code sent to your cellphone. If a hacker steals your password and tries to log in to your account on an unknown computer, the site will ask them for the second code. Unless they also stole your phone, and were able to unlock it, they won't be able to get the second code to log in.
Using 2FA is a bit more effort at first, but it gets easier fast and the security benefits are huge. Plus, you can set up "safe" computers and gadgets, such as your home computer or tablet, where you don't have to go through the whole sign-in process every time. Just make sure our computer has its own login password to keep snoops away.
Now that you know how 2FA works, let's look at how to turn it on for the major services you probably use. I haven't included individual banks because there are so many and each one offers something different. Check your bank account's settings or speak to customer service to see if it's an available option for you.