Taking the extra step beyond just a password can protect your business, online purchases, bank accounts, and even your identity from potential hackers. This extra step is known as Multi-factor Authentication (or two-factor authentication).
What is Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)*?
MFA is a layered approach to securing your online accounts and the data they contain. When you enable MFA in your online services (like email), you must provide a combination of two or more authenticators to verify your identity before the service grants you access. Using MFA protects your account more than just using a username and password.
Users who enable MFA are significantly less likely to get hacked. Why? Because even if a malicious cyber actor compromises one factor (like your password), they will be unable to meet the second authentication requirement, which ultimately stops them from gaining access to your accounts.
Online services want to make sure you are who you say you are, and—more importantly—they want to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing your account and data. So, they are taking a step to double check. Instead of asking you just for something you know (e.g., a password)—which can be reused, more easily cracked, or stolen—they can verify it’s you by asking for another piece of information:
- Something you know, such as a PIN number or password
- Something you have, such as an authentication application or confirmation text
- Something you are, such as a fingerprint or face scan
Whenever MFA is available, make sure to opt in. You can find this under the security settings of almost all accounts. It may also be known as: Two-Step Authentication, 2-Step Verification, 2FA, or Two Factor Authentication.
Popular forms of MFA include:
- Text message (SMS) or voice message
- Application-based MFA
- Phishing-resistant MFA
- Fingerprint authentication or face scan
Where to implement MFA:
- Email accounts
- Financial services
- Social media accounts
- Online stores
- Gaming and streaming entertainment services
Stopping all online crime is not a realistic goal, but simple steps such as enabling MFA can massively reduce the likelihood you’ll be the next victim.