Multi-factor Authentication for Online Security

By Josh Leber

Am I at risk for identity theft?
How safe are my online accounts?
Is there more I can be doing to protect my information?

These questions, more relevant now than ever, represent real fears that many people share when utilizing technology. Multi-factor authentication is part of the solution for a lot of these issues, making it much harder for bad actors to compromise your information. Let’s explore the benefits of the multi-factor authentication program, how it can protect you, and the idea behind the additional protection you receive.

Think of multi-factor authentication as an added layer of security. Even if your username and password are compromised, you are still protected because you’ll be required to approve logins via your mobile device. More so than any other piece of technology we tend to consider our cell phones an extension of ourselves, always readily at hand to verify any login attempts. And even if your cell phone does happen to fall into the wrong hands, additional passcodes and biometrics (such as facial recognition) further protect your sensitive information.

Never used multi-factor authentication before? Here’s a basic rundown of how it works: Let’s say you’re logging into your Raymond James online account. You have entered your username and password in the corresponding boxes. You will next be greeted by an additional box, asking you for an authentication code. You’ll receive a text to your cell phone with this one-time-use, temporary code. This is the second key (the additional “factor”) that grants you, and only you, entry.

Multi-factor authentication may seem inconvenient at first. I definitely understand! The first time I used this process was back in 2008, as a junior in high school. I played a popular online game called World of Warcraft, wherein account theft was a common and growing problem. To combat this, all players could buy a USB stick that generated personal authentication codes. It drove everyone crazy, but it meant that if your password was guessed or stolen, a hacker still wouldn’t be able to access your account. A simple password change is all it would take to set the thief right back to square one.

So, think of it this way: one small extra step for you is all it takes to create one giant obstacle for a potential thief. And after all, if an online video game is worth extra protection, isn’t your financial security?