It is time to move away from text-based two-factor authentication methods

Two-factor authentication is a solid security feature to protect accounts from unauthorized access. The security feature makes accounts by no means unbreakable, but it is a barrier against many common forms of attacks, including brute force attacks.

The main idea behind two-factor authentication is to require a second authentication code that is generated on the fly. Common options include generation in authentication apps that run on user devices and codes sent as text messages or in emails.

Some of these methods offer better security than others. Text and email codes, for example, are not encrypted, and this means that there is a chance that the codes are intercepted. It would go too far to describe attacks in detail, but using these codes is more dangerous when a device is connected to public networks. Attacks on high profile targets may be lucrative enough to justify additional means.

Authentication apps have the advantage that they run locally on the device already; this means the code does not need to be sent to the device, as it is generated on the device by the app.

Setup is a bit more complicated, as the app needs to be paired with particular services. Doing so is well worth the trouble, because of improved security.

Authentication apps are available in abundance. Common options include Authy, Google Translator, Microsoft Translator, or the open source Android app Aegis Authenticator. It is a good idea to pick an app that supports backups, or cloud syncs, if that is what you prefer.

It may take a bit of time to move from unencrypted codes to authentication apps, but the process is one-time only for each service.

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'It is time to move away from text-based two-factor authentication methods' first appeared in Weekly Tech Insights, a free weekly newsletter that you can sign up to here.

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