Updated 06/21/16: Includes more recent and accurate images, as well as information about Google's new on-phone prompt. You don't have to possess a stash of nude selfies in your Google account to know that it's time to take better precautions against getting hacked. Two-factor authentication (also called two-step verification) is one of the best weapons you can use against digital thieves. Fortunately, it is rather easy to set up for your Google account, providing an extra layer of security to guard against unwanted access to your stuff. Every time you sign in to your Google account it will require not only your password (you are using a password manager, right?) but a six-digit code generated through a text message, the Google Authenticator app, or an approval from the Google prompt.
It offers iPhone and Android users a slightly simpler manner of signing in to Google than one-time codes received via SMS or from the Google Authenticator app, both of which require codes displayed on the smartphone to be entered into Google's sign-in page. If Google prompt is set as the default for two-step verification, the Google app on iOS devices will simply ask the user if they are trying to sign in. Setting up Google prompt can be done from the Google's My Account page under Sign-in & Security Signing in to Google 2-Step Verification. The same goes for the iPhone, but a lock screen is already required for Touch ID to function on the iPhone.
Now might be a good time to add an extra layer of security to your Instagram account. As previewed in August, Instagram has switched on two-factor authentication using apps like Google Authenticator and Duo Mobile, promising a more secure sign-in process than receiving a text message (an option since 2016). You can enable it by visiting the Privacy and Security section of the mobile app's settings, choosing Two-Factor Authentication, and then toggling the Authentication App option. Instagram can scan for compatible authenticators on your phone or invite you to download one. The app-based approach offers one key advantage: it prevents the use of SIM hijacking campaigns to steer authentication text messages to another phone.
Microsoft is doing away with the password. The computing giant launched an update Tuesday to its OS and Android app that allows Microsoft account users to login using a login code instead of a password. The new feature of the Microsoft Authenticator app is basically two-factor authentication without the first factor. Instead of typing in a password and getting prompted for a secondary code, which is sent to an associated device owned by the account holder via the app, users will be able to bypass typing in their password and just generate a code to login. At first glance, this may seem like it's a less secure login method than two-factor authentication, seeing as it cuts out the typical security method that most people are familiar with.
Two-factor authentication, while basically essential for protecting important aspects of your online life nowadays, can also be annoying, especially if you juggle a lot of accounts. Usually, the two-factor authentication (or 2-step verification, as Google calls it), works as follows: When you log into your Google account from a new computer, you need to enter an additional 6-character code that's sent to your previously approved phone. Now, Google just added an option to its 2-step verification feature that makes this much easier: Instead of typing a code, you'll just have to unlock your phone and confirm your identity with a single tap. SEE ALSO: Don't be like Mark: How to protect your social accounts from being hacked To enable this option, go to My Account, section "Sign-in & Security" and choose "Signing in to Google" followed by "2-Step Verification." There, choose "Google Prompt" as the default option, and activate a device you will use for this purpose.