2FA: The New Normal of Passwords

Part 2 of an Interview with Robert Siciliano

2FA: Two-Factor Authentication Is the New Normal of Passwords!
2FA: Two-Factor Authentication Is the New Normal of Passwords!. E Plus / Getty

(continued from Part 1 of our interview with security expert Robert Siciliano, a consultant with Hotspot Shield)

 

About.com Question 3: Is Two-Factor Authentication the new normal?:  Robert, please tell us about 2FA, and how you think it can help.  How does 2FA work?  Will it stop these large-scale password thefts? How much does 2FA cost?

 

Robert Siciliano: 

Many of the recent data breaches have exposed passwords as a common denominator.

And as you know, if someone gets hold of your password, then your account—and all the data in it—is vulnerable.
 
But there's an easy way to protect your critical accounts from hackers and other infiltrators: Set up a two-factor-verified authentication system. With a two-factor-verified system, knowing your password is only the first step. To get any further, hackers will need to know the second factor, which is a special code (another password, also known as a "one time password" or OTP) that only you know and that changes every time you log in. Accessing your account will be a virtual impossibility. Best of all, it's free. 
 
If you're interested in setting up a two-factor-verified system on your accounts, follow the directions below for the major platforms:
 
Google. Go to google.com/2step. Click the blue button, upper right corner, that says “Get Started.” Follow the prompts that then lead to the process; choose text message or a phone call to receive your code.

Your setup now applies to all Google services including YouTube.
 
Yahoo. After signing in to your Yahoo account, you can begin Yahoo’s “Second Sign-In Verification” setup by hovering over your photo to trigger a drop-down menu. Click “Account Settings,” then click “Account Info.” Scroll to “Sign-In and Security,” and click the link “Set up your second sign-in verification.” Submit your phone number to receive a code via text.

No phone? Yahoo will send you security questions.
 
Apple. Visit applied.apple.com. A blue box to the right says “Manage Your Apple ID.” Click it, then log in using your Apple ID. Click the link to the left, “Passwords and Security.” 
 
Answer the two security questions to execute a new section, “Manage Your Security Settings.” Below is a link called “Get Started.” Click it, and enter your phone number to receive a code via text. You can also set up a unique password called a recovery key that you can use if your phone is not available.
 
Microsoft. Log in at login.live.com using your Microsoft account. Once you’ve logged in, look to the left where you'll see a link that goes to “Security Info.” Click it. Look to the right, where you'll see the link “Set Up Two-Step Verification.” Click it, then click “Next.” Then follow the simple process.
 
Facebook. To set up “Login Approvals,” go to Facebook’s website. To the right at the top is a blue menu bar; click the arrow that faces down to bring up a menu. Click “Settings.” To the left, you’ll see a gold badge that says “security” beside it; click it. Look to the right where you'll see “Login Approvals.” There will be a box that says “Require a security code.” Check that, then follow the instructions.


Facebook will sometimes text you the security code, or it may require you to use the Facebook mobile app on Android or iOS to get your code, which will be in the “Code Generator.”
 
Twitter. Set up the “Login Verification” by going to twitter.com, then clicking the gear icon in the upper right corner. Look left, where you'll see the “Security and Privacy” link. Click it. Then you’ll see “Login Verification” appear under “Security.” You’ll be given a choice of how to receive your code. Make the choice, then Twitter will guide you through the rest.
 
LinkedIn. Go to linkedin.com, then hover over your photo to bring up the drop-down menu.

Click “Privacy and Settings.” Toward the bottom is “Account.” Click that to bring up “Security Settings” on the right. Click that to be taken to “Two-Step Verification for Sign-In.” Click “Turn On,” then enter your phone number to receive the code.
 
PayPal. Log in to PayPal, and click on “Security and Protection” which is in the upper right corner. At the bottom of the page you’re taken to, hit “PayPal Security Key” on the left. When you get to that page, go to the bottom of it and click “Go to register your mobile phone.” On the next page, enter your phone number and wait for the code via text.
 
You'll have to keep a few things in mind to make this two-step verification process work. First, make sure you have unlimited text messaging if you're using your mobile and text as the second factor. Next, if an account doesn't offer the two-step-verification, see if it has alternatives that use phone calls, smartphone apps, email or “dongles.” These types of services provide codes that allow you to enter a site you’re already logging on to. Finally, if you receive a text requesting your account information, consider it a fraud. No reputable company would request that information from you.

 

About.com Question 4: What Can a User Do?  People don't need to be reminded that good computer hygiene and rotating passwords is good sense.  But can you offer us suggestion on what people can practically do to avoid being a hacker victim?  Are there some tools or techniques that can help without adding too much burden on us users?

 

Robert Siciliano: 

 

Laptop or PC
 

  • A two-way firewall: monitors the activity on your devices making sure nothing bad is coming in (like unauthorized access) and nothing good is leaving (like your data).
  • Anti-virus software: protects your devices from malicious keyloggers and other badware.
  • Anti-phishing software: watches your browser and email for suspicious inbox activity.
  • Anti-spyware software: keep your PC spyware free.
  • Safe search capacities: McAfee SiteAdvisor plugs into your browser and tells you what websites are good and which are suspicious.
  • Kick-butt passwords. Do away with the “Fitguy1982” password and use an extremely uncrackable one like 9&4yiw2pyqx#. Phrases are good too. Regularly change passwords and don’t use the same passwords for critical accounts. For more tips on how to create strong passwords, go to www.passwordday.org
  • Protect wireless data: whether on a laptop, smartphone or tablet, avoid public Wi-Fi such as at airports, hotels and coffee houses unless you are using an encryption tool called Hotspot Shield.

 
Smartphone or tablet
 

  • Be leery of third-party apps you install on your mobile phone, since malicious apps are the main threat.
  • Download apps only from reputable app stores.
  • Read reviews and make sure you know what information the app requests prior to download.
  • Use mobile security software that includes:
  • Anti-virus and malware protection
  • Turn off automatic connections to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi unless you’re using them.
  • Apply app and operating system updates.
  • Never store account numbers, passwords, etc., on your phone or tablet

     

    About.com Question 5: Where Do We Go for More Password Details? Robert, please tell us where you personally go online for your news and information? Are there favorite resources and blogs that you frequent?  Are there some online resources that would be helpful for the everyperson to become more security-savvy?


    Robert Siciliano: 

    RSS feeds and Google news alerts keep me informed. Google News key words such as "scam" "identity theft" "hacker" "data breach" and more keep me current on new security issues. With my RSS feeds, certainly About.com, WSJ Tech, ABCNews.com, Wired and a slew of tech trade publications keep me up to the minute. My philosophy is to always be on top of what is new and ahead of what is next at all times. This is how to be proactive, and neither me or my readers/audiences can be caught off guard. 
     

     

    About.com Question 6: Final Thoughts for Our Readers. Robert, do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers?  Any advice for them?

     

    Robert Siciliano: 

    We wear our seat belt because we know its just a matter of time before something bad happens. Information security is no different. This is why being proactive and vigilant is essential. Putting systems in place and maintaining those systems will keep most people safe and secure. 

     


    About Robert Siciliano:

    Robert is an expert in personal security and identity theft and a consultant to Hotspot Shield. He is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His “tell it like it is” style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. 

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