How to Secure Your Google Account With 2-Step Verification

Email is the centre of most people’s online identity and if it gets hacked it can have devastating consequences. Ensuring that your email account is secure is of paramount importance, however simply using a password is not always enough. Many Banks use a device which auto-generates a verification code as a second tier of security. Google has implemented a similar 2-step verification process using your mobile phone. In this article I will describe the steps used to use this new feature.

Setup 2-Step Verification

1. Navigate to your Google settings page.

2. Click on “Using 2-step verification”. This is under the Security section of the Personal Settings column.

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3. Enter your Google Account password.

4. Confirm that you would like to use the 2-step verification process. This is an important step and you must read it carefully before carrying on with the rest of the process.

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Essentially, the 2-step verification process requires you to enter two pieces of information before you can access your account. Firstly, you must enter your standard Google password. Secondly, a verification code will be sent to your phone which you must also enter.

Setting up 2-step verification means that hackers will be unable to access your account if they only have your password or phone. However, it also means that you would always need to have your phone at hand whenever you want to login to your Google Account.

5. The first step in setting up 2-step verification requires you to enter the model of your phone. Since I have an Android-based smartphone I select “Android“.

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6. Next, you must download and install the Google Authenticator app from the Android Market. When you have downloaded and installed the app click Next.

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7. Now you are given two options to configure Google Authenticator.

Firstly, you can simply use your phone to scan the QR code displayed on screen.

To do this, click on “Scan account barcode” in the Google Authenticator app on your Android phone, and hold the phone up to the barcode displayed in your browser.

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If for some reason you are unable to do this, select  “Manually add account” in the Google Authenticator app. Next, you will be prompted to enter you full email address and your secret “key“.

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The secret key can be obtained from the page where you choose your phone model.

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Finally, select “Time-based” key and hit “Save“.

Whichever way you choose to use to add your account a verification code will appear on your Android phone in the Google Authenticator app.

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Take note of this number and hit Next in your browser.

8. On the next page enter the verification code from above. Once the code is verified and the device is configured, click Next.

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9. Your phone is now configured. But, wait! What happens if your phone is lost or stolen? In order to prepare for this contingency Google allows you to add backup options for receiving verification codes. Click Next to set up these backup options.

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The first backup option gives you a set of printable codes that can be substituted for the verification code. These ought to be printed and stored in a safe location. Click Next once you have printed out the codes.

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Secondly, you can add a mobile or landline number of a trusted friend. Test this number to ensure that the verification code can be received on this device. Click Next once you have configured the phone number.

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10. Finally, hit “Turn on 2-step verification” to activate this feature.

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Now, whenever you sign into a Google service (such as Gmail) you will be prompted to enter a verification code. You must use the Google Authenticator app on your Android phone to obtain a verification code (NB: the code changes every few seconds). You can also ensure that the device you are currently using remembers the verification for the next 30 days.

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Setup Application-Specific Passwords

2-Step verification will now work with your Google Account, however some applications will require a specific password as they do not support the verification code feature. Do the following to set up application-specific passwords:

1. After signing in for the first time you will be informed that you must create application specific passwords to ensure these work with the 2-step verification process. Click “Create passwords” to proceed.

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2. On the next page you will see a list of apps you have given access to your account. Below, you can name the app you wish to create a new app specific password for.

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3. Hit “Generate password” to see your newly created password.

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4. You must now enter this password into that specific app before it works with your Google Account.

De-Activating 2-Step Verification

To de-active 2-step verification, simply navigate to the 2-step verification management page and select “Turn off 2-step verification…“.

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