Two-factor authentication (2FA for short), sometimes called multi-factor authentication, is a system in which you must verify your identity in two separate ways to access an account. This may be a code sent via text message to a number associated with the account, or one generated by an app on a smartphone. Here’s an example:

After enabling 2FA on a Gmail account, each time you log in, you’ll have to input your password. You then get asked to enter a six-digit code that is unique to you and changes every 20 seconds. In the above example, you use a smartphone app (there’s one for every type of device, and one app will handle the 2FA codes for each individual account) and input the code. Only then do you have access to your account. You must enter both password and 2FA code each time you access the account. If someone steals your password, they still can’t access your Gmail account.

If you aren’t currently using two-factor authentication with your most sensitive data and systems, investigate if it’s an option today. The extra 15 seconds to pull up the code and get logged in is laughably short compared to the time spent dealing with a hacked account.

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