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Quickview: Get Enhanced Security With Two-factor Authentication

Rest a little easier knowing that you have an additional layer of protection guarding the information you store online.

Bill Winterberg, 11/28/2011

Web-based services are becoming increasingly prevalent in your toolkit as a financial advisor. From online CRM platforms to document management systems, you are storing more and more information in these services. One problem associated with storing your data online is the risk that your account password can be compromised, exposing your private and sensitive information to the wrong people.

One security feature gaining use across the Web is two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication works by pairing something you know, like your account username and password, with something you have (like a physical card or "token") or something you are (your fingerprint or "voiceprint"). Advisors who custody with Schwab Advisor Services are familiar with two-factor authentication, as they must add a random six-digit number generated by a physical security card to the end of their Schwab account password to log in to the online platform.

Many online consumer services are enhancing login security by allowing users to enable two-factor authentication for their accounts. For example, Google offers an option it calls 2-step verification to all users of its online services, and Facebook allows users to turn on two-factor authentication under the Login Approvals section of the Security Settings page.

Both services allow you to use your mobile phone as the second "factor" of authentication. When you first log in to Google or Facebook from an unrecognized computer, you receive an SMS text message with a six-digit code that you must enter into the login page to gain access to your account. So while a hacker may successfully obtain your account username and password, perhaps through a well-crafted phishing message or a program that logs your keystrokes, he won't be able to access your account without the additional code. Instead, you'll receive an unexpected text on your phone containing the code, tipping you off to the fact that an unauthorized person is attempting to break in to your account.

Check the various web services you use today for enhanced security features like two-factor authentication. If your current provider doesn't offer it, send a request to add the functionality in the near future. You'll rest a little easier knowing that you have an additional layer of protection guarding the information you store online.

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Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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