Brendan Chamberlain is an Information Security Analyst and a member of the Information Security team at The University of Vermont Medical Center, where he works hard to enhance the security of sensitive information.

Passwords. They are used to protect some of our most sensitive information, including e-mail, bank accounts, credit cards, internet-connected computers and – most important – our identities.

They are the pain point for every user: usually required to be a certain length, contain a combination of characters, numbers and symbols. Once you’ve created that perfect, easy-to-type-and-remember password, you need to change it only months later. And there’s a big catch: passwords alone cannot protect your information.

Every day, new computer algorithms are created using the latest software and hardware technology that can crack increasingly complex passwords. New security vulnerabilities are constantly being uncovered that allow hackers to gain access to databases full of passwords. Phishing emails designed to steal account credentials are becoming more convincing and legitimate in appearance. It seems like no matter what we do, there’s no good way for us to secure our accounts. But a solution does exist: it’s called multi-factor authentication.

Password Protection: Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is a security method that uses a combination of two or more of the following to authenticate your account credentials – in other words, using more than a password alone to make sure you are really you. You can use two or more of any of these to create the multi-factor process:

  1. Something you have: A cell phone, key fob or access badge
  2. Something that is part of you: A fingerprint, your voice, or even the iris in your eye
  3. Something you know: A password, passphrase or PIN

When multi-factor authentication is used, it is nearly impossible for a hacker to successfully compromise the associated account’s credentials.

Many websites now provide two-factor authentication, including most online banking and many retail websites.

In response to the recent celebrity iCloud hacking incident, where celebrities’ personal photos were accessed, Apple quickly implemented enhanced multifactor authentication functionality. Wherever it’s available, enabling two-factor authentication is the best solution for securing online accounts.

You can find out whether websites you visit support multi-factor authentication by checking this website.

Brendan Chamberlain is an Information Security Analyst on the Information Security team at the UVM Medical Center, where he is working hard to enhance the security of the network’s sensitive information. He looks forward to hitting the slopes this winter.

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