Last week, Google took a very important step in improving security on their systems’ accounts, including Gmail: 2-Factor Authentication.What is 2-factor authentication? In short, it goes a step beyond a single factor, e.g., a password (which is something you know) and adds a second factor, e.g., something you have. You may have seen little SecurID tokens or other similar devices which follow a pre-determined formula to generate an additional password. The trick is that it changes frequently so it is effectively different from just remembering another password – you have to have the device in your possession to log in, hence, the second factor.
To enable this service, you have to have a smartphone, such as an Android, Blackberry, or iPhone. Google uses your phone and either an app for your device, or an SMS message to send you your login code, without which, you cannot access your account. Note that this means if you lose your phone or have no cell service, you can’t receive your one-time code and you cannot log in. However, Google has provided a method for you to pre-generate passwords or access them via the app for your smartphone so that you can access your Google account without cellular service.
Note that this may cause some hiccups with other apps which access your Gmail account.
To enable 2-factor authentication on your Google account, visit https://www.google.com/accounts/ManageAccount.
Note: Google is rolling this service out in waves, so if you don’t see it today, check again soon.