What is two-factor authentication?

Believing that a single password is sufficient to secure your account is a misconception. In today’s world, where cyber threats and advanced hacking techniques are prevalent, a more robust security measure is required. This is where two-factor authentication (2FA) comes into play.

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While it’s commendable to generate unique and robust passwords for your accounts, it’s not foolproof. This is why 2FA stands out as an optimal method to ensure the security of your accounts. It’s now implemented across a wide range of platforms, including Apple’s operating systems, Google Drive, Windows 10 and 11, and various social networks, making 2FA a straightforward and potent security strategy.

What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is a security process where you’re required to provide two forms of identification before accessing your account. Initially, you’ll input your password. Following this, a unique code will be sent to your mobile device. If you can verify ownership of this device, you’ll be granted access.

The advantage of 2FA

The advantage of 2FA is that it greatly enhances the security of your account. Even if you’ve used a password manager to create a robust password, there’s no guarantee that the company hasn’t exposed your password through a data breach. However, with 2FA, a hacker would need more than just your password to gain access to your account – they’d also need your phone. This adds an additional layer of defense against cybercrime and alerts you immediately if someone attempts to infiltrate your account.

The authentication methods for 2FA can be categorized into three groups:

Something you know:

Something you have:

Something you are:

Illustrations of Dual-Factor Authentication

A simple illustration of dual-factor authentication is when you attempt to log into your Facebook or Google account from a different device. You input your email and password, but the system requires an additional step before granting access. It prompts you to input a six-digit code that has been sent to your email. This extra layer of security, beyond just knowing your password, decreases the chances of unauthorized access to your account.

In certain scenarios, personal identification data can serve as components of dual-factor authentication. For instance, a bank official may have your phone number on record, but they also request confirmation of your date of birth for additional identity verification.

Activating Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

This guide will walk you through the process of activating 2FA on various platforms. Keep in mind that you might require multiple devices to activate 2FA.

Activating 2FA on Windows 10 and 11

If you’re a Windows 10 or 11 user, activating 2FA is straightforward and can be done online via your Microsoft account. You can use an email, a phone number, or Microsoft’s dedicated Authenticator app as part of the authentication process.

  1. Visit Microsoft and log into your account or create a new one.
  2. Select “Security.”
  3. Choose “Advanced security options.”
  4. Select a method and confirm your identity. These steps are essential to activate 2FA and secure your Microsoft account, regardless of whether you use Windows 10 or 11.

Activating 2FA on iOS

  1. Navigate to “Settings” and select your name.
  2. Choose “Sign-in and security.” If you’re using an older operating system — iOS 10.2 or earlier — navigate to “Settings,” “iCloud,” then “Apple ID.”
  3. Select “Turn on two-factor authentication” and choose “Continue.”
  4. Input the phone number you wish to use as your verification device and confirm your identity. You can now secure your iPhone using 2FA.

Activating 2FA on macOS

  1. To activate 2FA on macOS, navigate to “System settings” in the Apple menu, select your name, or log in with your Apple ID.
  2. Select “Sign-in and security,” locate Two-factor authentication, and choose “Turn on.”
  3. Respond to security queries and select “Continue.”
  4. Input your phone number and confirm your identity. For macOS Mojave or older versions, follow these steps:
  5. Navigate to “System Preferences” and select “iCloud.”
  6. Then, choose “Account Details.”
  7. Navigate to “Security” and select “Turn on two-factor authentication.” Regardless of your macOS version, you can now safeguard your device with 2FA.

Activating 2FA on Android

To activate 2FA on an Android device, access your Google account. Note that Google refers to their 2FA features as “2-Step verification.” Here’s how to activate it:

  1. Access your Google account and select “Manage your Google account.”
  2. Navigate to the “Security” tab.
  3. Select the arrow next to “2-step verification.”
  4. Choose your preferred authentication method. This is how you activate 2FA and enhance your Android device’s security. You can stick with the default option and receive your security codes via text or voice messages, use the Google prompt for quicker verifications, or use the Google Authenticator app. With the Google prompt, you won’t have to input verification codes each time you want to access your account. Instead, you’ll receive a notification asking if you’re the one trying to log in. Simply select “Yes,” and you’re in.

What are the types of 2FA?

2FA is a security measure that employs a variety of methods to confirm a user’s identity. These methods range from passcodes to biometric data, and they cater to a wide array of use cases and security needs.


SMS-based two-factor authentication works by sending a security code via text message to the user’s mobile device. The user then inputs this code into the website or application they are trying to access.



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A locally generated key on the user’s device is the basis of the Time-Based One-Time Password (TOTP) 2FA method. This security key, typically a QR code, is scanned by the user’s mobile device to produce a sequence of numbers. These numbers are then input into the website or application for access. The codes produced by the authenticators have a limited lifespan and a fresh one is created each time the user logs into their account. TOTP is a component of the Open Authentication (OAUTH) security framework.



Enhanced Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

The enhanced 2FA, also known as push-based 2FA, advances the security measures of SMS and TOTP 2FA by incorporating extra security layers and enhancing user-friendliness. This method verifies a user’s identity using multiple authentication factors that surpass other methods. Duo Security is a prominent provider of this advanced 2FA.



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PrivacyHints is a team built up of computer security experts, tech reporters, lawyers, and strong privacy supporters from all over the world working together.

As digital leaders, we strongly believe in the importance of personal privacy and the huge potential that comes from having a free but safe internet. We’re not just interested in listing risks; we’re also strongly committed to revealing the hidden threats that threaten our right to privacy and freedom online as a whole.

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