Bitcoin For Dummies
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Even if you aren't planning to store bitcoins on an exchange for an extended period of time, you may want to look into ways to protect your account. Most (non-bitcoin) online services require users to authenticate with just a username and password, which is not exactly the most secure way of protecting your credentials and personal information.

In recent years, it has become apparent that more layers of security need to be implemented on top of the standard authentication protocols. One of the more popular solutions to tackle this problem is called two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires an additional "token" to be entered when accessing your account. Failing to enter the correct combination results in an error message.

It's not uncommon for an unauthorized third party to get access to your username and password credentials. This is not always a fault of the individual, as some online services may use unsecure methods of storing these details. Enabling 2FA adds a layer of security on top of that to safeguard your data and money.

2FA may be used in multiple ways, although not all of these forms are supported by every platform. The most common type of 2FA comes in the form of Google Authenticator, which is an application you can install on any mobile device. Using Google Authenticator is quite simple. After you download the app to your mobile device, you set up a new account:

  1. Log in to the service or platform you want to protect with 2FA.
  2. Scan an associated QR code with the camera of your mobile device.
  3. Use that QR code to link to your authentication details, pairing it to your mobile device.

Every time you open Google Authenticator, it generates a new 2FA code for your account. These codes remain valid for a very short period of time, after which a new code is automatically generated. The validation of this code is automatically verified when logging in. Entering an expired code will return you back to the login screen.

Even though mobile 2FA sounds very convenient, a couple of drawbacks should be kept in mind:
  • You need to carry your mobile device with you at all times, and it needs to be charged with enough battery to generate a 2FA code. This will not be an issue for most people, but it can cause inconvenience at certain times.
  • If you lose your phone or it gets stolen, you also lose your 2FA credentials. Even though there ways to remove 2FA security from your account and enable it on a new device, doing so is quite the hassle and not a process you want to run through if it's not necessary.
Other ways to authenticate your account through 2FA include services like Clef and Authy, available from the relevant app store for your mobile device, and even plain old SMS verification. However, these options — except for SMS verification — require you to carry additional hardware on you in order to verify your credentials, making them less convenient.

SMS verification also has its own drawbacks. For example, if you are in an area where you get bad to no cellular signals, SMS verification for 2FA purposes won't work. Plus, if you are in a foreign country, additional fees may be charged to you for receiving the 2FA authentication code.

Regardless of which option you decide to use, when it comes to bitcoin exchanges, be sure to enable any form of 2FA you possibly can. This protects your account properly, and even though it may be slightly cumbersome at times, protecting your money is well worth going the extra mile.

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