Making two-factor authentication stronger in two easy steps

Last updated: August 15, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
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As cybersecurity attacks have become one of the most critical issues causing a never-ending headache for organizations and individuals, additional layers of security are no longer an option but a must. However, the results of the Keeper Security survey raise privacy concerns. According to the report, 80% of people aged 18+ use the same password across multiple accounts, making them easy prey for hackers constantly looking for ways to invade our privacy.

But here comes two-factor authentication promising to ensure additional protection for its users. So, let’s dig deeper to understand what it means and how to ensure that 2FA is as secure as possible.

What is two-factor authentication

2FA is known as “multi-factor authentication.” One factor is always something the user knows, for example, a PIN code or password, and the second one is related to something the user has, such as their fingerprint.

You have probably heard about two-step authentication. Do not confuse yourself – these are not the same. 2SV doesn’t require the “something user has” part. In 2SV, the second step usually involves receiving a code via SMS or e-mail and entering it on the website or application. From first sight, a smartphone receiving a text message or e-mail with a code may confuse and make you consider it as “something you have,” but eventually, the code and the credentials used to access the account or device is still “something you know.”

Although two-step verification adds a layer of protection, it may be an easier catch for hackers as they will need to commit only one type of crime – steal your primary password and the answer to your security question. Accounts protected with two-factor authentication may be more complicated for criminals to hack as they will need to steal “something you know” and your physical device receiving the information required.

It’s a no-brainer that having any form of additional protection is better than securing your accounts with only one weak password. Therefore, if you need to choose the second level of security, 2FA is an unquestionable winner.

How to make two-factor authentication even stronger

If you decided to use two-factor authentication or it has already been implemented on your accounts, there’s still room for security improvement. Logging in and being requested for an authentication code, you get a notification to your smartphone, and the code shows up on your screen. Easy peasy, right? Yes, that’s great, as long as your smartphone is in your hands and not stolen by a criminal. Having your phone taken away these days may have harsh consequences, such as losing your documents or bank cards. Nevertheless, some simple and easy-to-implement tricks may move your peace of mind to the next level.

1) Bid farewell to your lock-screen notifications

If a thief steals your smartphone, you will regret letting the notifications appear on the screen. Cybercriminals would thank you loads. To secure your data and an emotional state, ensure you don’t allow such notifications to appear on your lock screen.

Set up your notifications on your iPhone:

Open Settings and click on Notifications. If you wish to disable all of your lock screen notifications, tap on Show Previews > select When Unlocked or Never.

If you prefer to leave some lock screen notifications turned on, go through the apps individually. Open Settings > click on Notifications > choose the app, for example, Messenger > scroll down to the option for showing previews and select When Unlocked or Never.

Set up your notifications on Android:

Open Settings > tap on Apps & Notifications > choose Notifications > select On the lock Screen > choose Don’t show notifications or Show notifications but hide sensitive content.

Many Android versions don’t let you set up notifications for the lock screen app by app. Nevertheless, there is an exception if you use Samsung’s version of the OS.

2) Finish the job by protecting your SIM card

Remember that even though you’ve protected your lock screen from strangers, it’s a no-brainer to remove a SIM card from a phone and easily insert it into another one. This way, hackers could receive 2FA one-time codes easily.

It’s effortless enough to remove this option from thieves – use a PIN code for your SIM card for the rescue.

Set up a PIN code on iOS devices:

Tap on Settings > Click on Phone > Choose SIM PIN > Switch SIM PIN on > Enter your current PIN > Tap on Change PIN > Enter your current PIN once more > Enter your new PIN code afterward and enter it once again to confirm the changes.

Set up a PIN code on Android devices

Tap on Settings > Choose Security & Location > Select SIM card lock and Lock SIM card > Enter the current PIN > Tap on Change SIM PIN > Enter the current PIN > Enter a new PIN code once again for confirmation.

That’s it – now your data protection is as strong as possible with two-factor authentication. However, consider other data security measures, such as constantly updating your device’s operating system or using a VPN provider that doesn’t log your data and offers additional features for your extra security. It’s never too much safety and protection – the more serious your attitude toward security, the more peace of mind is guaranteed.

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About the Author

Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

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