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2-Factor Authentication 101: What It Is and Why It Matters

  |  Dashlane
2-Factor Authentication 101 Blog Header

Last updated Mar. 27, 2024

2-factor authentication (2FA) adds a second layer of safety to your online account, but what exactly is 2FA, and why should you care?

 You might have seen 2FA and MFA in headlines lately, been asked to turn them on in your Google account, or set them up while you were onboarding at your job. These numbers and letters can make a huge difference in your online security, but what do they actually mean and do? 

2-factor authentication (2FA)

2FA is an extra layer of security for your account beyond just a username and password. It requires a token (a second credential), in addition to your password, for you to gain access to your account. Getting that token requires access to something that belongs to you—like your cell phone, email, or fingerprint. When you log in to a 2FA-enabled account, you’ll be prompted to type in your username and password (or autofill them if you use Dashlane) and provide that token.  

2FA vs. MFA

The difference is simple: 2FA requires two methods of authentication (like your password and fingerprint), while MFA (multi-factor authentication) requires two or more methods (for example, your password, PIN, and fingerprint). 

The benefits of 2FA

Logins are the most sought-after type of data for cybercriminals. In fact, 61% of data breaches involve compromised credentials. 2FA levels up your cybersecurity dramatically by protecting against phishing, social engineering, and password brute-force attacks. It also secures your logins from attackers exploiting weak or stolen credentials. If that’s not enough of an incentive to enable it, here are a few more reasons to add 2FA to your security routine: 

  • When 2FA is done right, it’s super easy to use.
  • Experts highly recommend 2FA. When asked what cybersecurity issue she would fix to make the world a better place, cybersecurity journalist and author Nicole Perloth answered 2FA. “2FA, MFA, it’s ridiculous how many of these attacks come in because someone didn’t turn on MFA…time and time again if they would have just switched on 2FA, some of these attacks wouldn’t have been possible.” 

The moral of the story? Ice cream is better with sprinkles, hot chocolate is better with whipped cream, and your digital footprint is better protected with 2FA. 

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