What is the point of two-factor authentication?

Published: 15 November 2017

Two-factor authentication is much more secure than mere password authentication and can now be set up for almost anything. And you should do so, too, but be aware that login will take a little longer and will require an additional device, e.g. your mobile phone.

Multifactor authentication (MFA) means that a user may only get access to certain personal information, documents and/or content if he/she is able to provide multiple pieces of evidence to prove his/her identity. Generally, this is something that only the user knows (for example, a password) or something that he/she has (for example, some type of card or identity document) or something that is inherent to him/her (such as some sort of biometric identification, fingerprint or retinal pattern).

Accordingly, two-factor authentication (2FA) uses the combination of two factors. For example, two-factor authentication is applied when an ATM requires a bank card (something that you have) and the associated PIN (something that only you know) to make a withdrawal.

Two-factor authentication is also possible on platforms and devices that you most commonly trust with your personal information online. It can be used on the platforms of Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and similar services and it can be set up on your personal computer, mobile phone, tablet, your own server and on most operating systems.

In such cases, the second step or factor of authentication usually involves your mobile phone. You can get the unique secondary code that you also need to enter in the login interface by text message, instant message or using the code generator app installed on your phone.

Although the two-factor solution is not impervious to circumvention, setting it up adds an important extra layer of protection around your personal content, significantly reducing the risks of identity theft and fraud. Even if someone could crack your password, the two-factor authentication would prevent them from accessing your data.

Its use is strongly recommended. It is usually not hard to set up and in some cases you can choose from multiple solutions. It should be noted that login will take a little longer as a result and you must always have you mobile phone charged and operational.


The following article offers practical advice and short video guides to help you set up two-factor authentication on most devices and platforms: