What is Two-Factor Authentication, and why is it important?

Ki James
September 3rd, 2021

It’s increasingly popular to see two-factor authentication be the norm for many users across all social media platforms. This is because it’s so incredibly effective at keeping your accounts secure in addition to being relatively easy to enable. That raises the question though, what is a “factor,” what does it mean to have two of them, and why is it so effective?

Factors and Authentication

Whenever you want to access information on a computer, it’s become common practice to prove in some way that you have the proper credentials and clearance to get in. This applies equally to your personal, private messages and classified documents in a top-secret government database. The process of proving your identity is called “Authentication.”

Authentication requires any individual to provide one of the following pieces of proof, called “Factors.”

  • Something the user has
  • Something the user knows
  • Something the user is
  • Somewhere the user is

Most commonly, people use the factor “something the user knows” in the form of a password to authenticate their identity. It’s also common to see people use biometrics (something the user is) or even physical keys (something the user has.)

Multi-Factor Authentication

Any individual factor by itself can be easily compromised. Keys can be stolen or faked, locations can be duped or trespassed on, information can be stolen or guessed, and even your identity can be stolen. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to employ more than one factor to ensure maximal security.

For example, let’s imagine that before you log into your Facebook account, you have to provide a password in addition to a confirmation code delivered to your phone number. This is an example of two-factor authentication, where one factor is “something that you know,” and the other is “something that you have.” Alternatively, you could require a password in addition to a fingerprint scan.

Relevance to you

Whatever your preferred factor, you’re limited by convention. Most social media platforms will have an option to enable two-factor authentication, but it’s almost always limited to connecting your phone number to your account.

If you take 5 minutes out of your day to set this up, it increases the difficulty of breaking into your account dramatically. After all, how likely is it that a malicious actor will have access to both your physical phone and your password?

It may seem inconvenient, but the benefits are immeasurable. You should absolutely enable two-factor authentication on as many social media platforms as possible as soon as possible.

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