If you hear the phrase ‘Two-Step Verification’ and roll your eyes, thinking to yourself that someone has just figured out yet another way to waste your time and make it harder than ever to get into your accounts, think again. There are some really good reasons for adopting that approach to account security. It’s not a phrase you hear all that often, but as a security measure, it is becoming more commonplace.

What Is It, Exactly?

As the name implies, two-step verification is simply the addition of a second step to verify a user’s identity. So, for example, when you call the bank to ask a question about your account, after asking you for the account number, they’ll ask you for the last four of your social. Then they’ll ask you for your PIN. Two bits of information that, when taken together, prove to the bank to their satisfaction that you’re really you.

The process can take other forms as well. When you set up an account with many credit card companies, they’ll ask you to create a series of challenge questions. Who was your fifth grade teacher? What was the name of your favorite pet? What’s your favorite meal? And so forth. When you go to log in, you enter your password, yes, but then, in addition to that, you get asked one of your challenge questions.

Why It’s A Good Idea

The sad fact is that identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes on the planet. About the only crime that’s growing faster is smartphone theft, which should give you a clear indication of where our world is headed. In any case, once a thief has your identity, it’s usually easy for them to take command of all your assets and all your lines of credit. Two-step identification makes it somewhat harder.

Most people (and you know who you are) tend to use and re-use the same passwords for most, if not all of their online accounts. They do that because it can be hard to remember fifteen different passwords to fifteen different accounts, and of course, password security is fairly useless if you write them all down somewhere, so people default to just using the same one over and over again.

The obvious drawback to that is that once a hacker or identity thief has the password to one of your accounts, you just handed him the keys to all of them. Unless the site in question uses two-step identification. Without knowing you, it’s unlikely that the thief would know the answer to your challenge question, and because of that, it provides and important second layer of protection for all your accounts.

A Quick Way To Make Strong Passwords

For those of you who are in the habit of using the same password for everything, here’s a quick and easy way to change things up that you won’t go crazy trying to remember. Pick a word. Doesn’t matter what the word is, but let’s say that your word is pineapple. That forms the basis for your password.

On every account you’ve got, set your password to the first three letters of the site you’re logging into, plus your chosen word, plus @1 at the end. So for example, if you create a chase account, your password there would be chapineapple@1. Easy to remember, because all your passwords are built around the same root word, but unless someone knew your system, it would be very difficult to get into any of your other accounts. It’s a quick way to further protect yourself.

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