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What is two-factor authentication (2FA)? How to enable it and why you should

JR Raphael | Dec. 1, 2017
With Google, Facebook, Instagram, or your own internal accounts, 2FA provides an extra layer of protection that helps keep hackers out.

For G Suite accounts, Google's 2-Step Verification must first be enabled at the admin level. A company can then require all users to utilize the system.

For especially high-risk accounts, Google also now offers a next-level option known as the Advanced Protection Program. It works only with a physical security key and prevents all non-Google services from connecting to an account and accessing its data. 

How to set up 2FA for Facebook 

Facebook's 2FA options are similar to Google's, though not quite as extensive. Users can enable 2FA within Facebook by opening the Security and Login Settings page, then clicking the "Edit" button inside the 2FA section. 

From there, simply follow the on-screen steps to set up 2FA and select a preferred method — an app-generated code, an SMS-delivered code, a physical security key, or a printed recovery code. 

How to set up 2FA for Instagram 

Despite being owned by Facebook, Instagram's 2FA options are still extraordinarily limited. What's more, management of the service's two-factor system is available only in its mobile apps and not on its website. 

To enable 2FA on Instagram, open the Android or iOS app, navigate to your profile, then tap the 2FA option and activate the toggle next to "Require Security Code." Unfortunately, SMS-based codes are Instagram's only option for day-to-day use, though the service does, at least, offer the ability to get a list of backup codes

Other sites and services 

Most sites follow similar models for enabling 2FA, assuming they offer it in the first place, of course. An alarming number of businesses still don't. You can find a detailed community-maintained database of two-factor support status for well-known companies and services at the aptly named twofactorauth.org.

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