Two Factor Authentication or 2FA, is a quick and effective way to secure your accounts. It requires multiple steps to set up, but the value you get is worth much more than the effort required. And once you’ve done it at least once, it quickly becomes easier to enable across all your accounts.
To turn on two factor authentication, first download a 2FA app such as Authy to your mobile phone. Then link this app to your online accounts, following the instructions specific to each account. Finally, backup the 2FA app itself, or generate backup codes in case you lose access to your phone.
Having one or more of your accounts hacked unfortunately happens all too often, which is crazy because there is a very simple solution. Two Factor Authentication is your best protection against your accounts being hacked.
Even if you use Password123 as the password for most of your accounts (which you really shouldn’t do), with 2FA enabled, it’s still highly unlikely your account will be hacked. And here’s why:
2FA adds a second level of authentication when logging into your account. Compare it to opening a bank account. When you open a bank account, you usually have to provide two forms of ID – say your driver’s license and a utility bill.
The same is true of 2FA. With 2FA enabled, when you log in to one of your accounts, you provide your credentials plus the 2FA code. The code is commonly 6 digits and can be provided in several ways.
You can use a 2FA app, or it can be sent via SMS. Or in the case of Apple, for example, it will appear on screen on one of your devices.
What makes 2FA so secure is that the code is completely random and held by you, not by the company you have the account with. So whilst data breaches do frequently occur, often exposing millions of customer account details, even if a hacker were to get hold of your username and password, they would still need your 2FA code to access your account.
And believe me once they see you’re using 2FA, chances are they’ll immediately give up and move on to an easier target.
How to enable Two Factor Authentication on all of your accounts
The first step is to get yourself a 2FA app. The second step is to link the app with your accounts. And thirdly – and very importantly – you need to back up your 2FA app because if you lose access to your codes, you lose access to all your accounts.
So let’s run through each of these steps individually.
There are lots of good 2FA apps available. However, most are only available on mobile. Microsoft and Google each offer one, and there are also open-source options such as Aegis for Android and Tofu for iOS. However, the one I use is Authy.
Authy is not open-source, which techy people will correctly recognize as being a slight limitation but, there are two good reasons why I like it.
First, it offers both a mobile and desktop application, which means you don’t have to go hunting around for your phone every time you want to log in to one of your accounts on your laptop.
Second, it includes a handy backup feature, so you can recover your Authy codes, should you ever delete the app or replace your phone.
I won’t go through installing Authy in this video. I have separate videos explaining exactly how to install both Authy and Microsoft Authenticator which I’ll link to below.
However, once you have installed your chosen 2FA app, you’ll have a similar screen to this and you’ll be ready to link your first account. So let’s go through setting up 2FA on some popular websites and apps.
Most well-known companies and popular apps these days offer the option of enabling Two Factor Authentication.
However, as I mentioned earlier, some of these companies don’t require you to use a 2FA app, as is the case with Apple and Google.
How to enable Two Factor Authentication on Apple
You can enable 2FA on your Apple account by browsing to appleid.apple.com, logging in, and scrolling down to this section here.
Once enabled, rather than using an app, Apple will simply display the code on one of your Apple devices, whether it be your phone or your Mac computer.
How to enable Two Factor Authentication on Google
Google does a similar thing. You can enable 2FA on your Google Account by browsing to account.google.com or if you’re already logged in, you can simply click on your profile icon and choose Manage my account.
You’ll find the option to enable 2FA under Security. Once enabled, Google will use one of your Google apps on another device to confirm it’s you. Such as the Gmail app on your mobile phone.
How to enable Two Factor Authentication on WhatsApp and Signal
Chat messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Signal, also support 2FA. However, they simply allow you to add a Pincode, which you’ll need to provide each time you register your account on a new device.
In WhatsApp, you’ll find the option in Settings, under Accounts and Two-Step Verification. Adding an email address provides an alternative, should you ever forget your pin.
In Signal, click on your profile icon in the top left corner of the app, choose Account followed by Create A Pin. Having created the PIN enable Registration Lock so the pin is required to access your account on a new device.
How to enable Two Factor Authentication on Amazon
Amazon offers two options for Two Factor Authentication, either by receiving an SMS each time you log in or by using an App.
Where you have this choice, it is always recommended to use an app rather than SMS. For one it’s a lot easier to steal your Simcard to receive an SMS than it is to access your phone to get to your 2FA app. Secondly, SMSs are sent unencrypted in plain text which is never a good thing.
When linking one of your accounts with a 2FA app like Authy, scanning a QR code is the common approach.
In Authy simply click on Add Account, followed by Scan QR code, which will activate the camera in your phone to scan the QR code displayed on the site.
Having scanned the code, Authy will look online for the logo of the company you are linking to. If it’s unable to find a logo, we can just use a color instead, and then proceed to provide a name for the account.
Once complete, Authy will now start generating a 6 digit code specific to my Amazon account. To complete the link between Authy and Amazon, I just need to enter this code. And that’s it.
Two Factor Authentication is now enabled on my Amazon account. If I sign out and log back in, you can see I’m prompted for the code and I simply need to enter the current code shown in my Authy app.
How to enable Two Factor Authentication on Facebook and Instagram
It’s a similar process on Facebook. Log into your Facebook account, open the drop-down menu in the top right corner of the window and choose Settings.
Choose Security and Login, scroll down the page to Two Factor Authentication and click on Edit. As with Amazon, you have the choice between using an App or an SMS. Choose App, scan the QR code in Authy, and then enter the 6 digits displayed in the Authy app.
In situations where you’re enabling 2FA on an account on your phone, such as on Instagram, scanning a QR code isn’t an option.
So to set up 2FA on your Instagram account, click on the menu icon in the top right corner of the app, choose Settings followed by Security and Two Factor Authentication.
Now, because we’re using our phone, instead of scanning a QR code, we’re going to choose Set Up Another Way and then copy the key.
In Authy, this time we’ll choose Enter Key Manually, and paste the key here on the line. Again we go through the process of finding the Instagram logo, naming our account, and, finally, to finish the process we simply enter the most recent code generated by Authy into Instagram.
It’s worth mentioning that, having set up 2FA, most sites and apps will provide you with a list of codes. These codes act as alternatives to the 2FA code should you ever lose access to your 2FA app. I recommend keeping these backed up in a safe place.
Backing up Two Factor Authentication
Now that you have all your accounts protected using Two Factor Authentication, it’s a good idea to backup your 2FA app. To do that in Authy, all we need to do is click on the Settings icon in the top right of the app, and choose Accounts in the bottom menu.
We’ll then enable Authenticator Backups, enter a Password and that’s it. We can be safe in the knowledge that our 2FA codes are all backed up and all our online accounts are now protected from being hacked.
So that is how and why you should Enable Two Factor Authentication. As I say, links to how to install and use Authy are below or, if you prefer, I also have a video for Microsoft Authenticator.
Hope this guide was helpful. For more tips like this, please check out my Youtube playlist of Internet Security Apps. See you there!