Your eyes may glaze over when anybody mentions Google two-step SMS verification (also known in some circles as Google 2-Factor Authentication), but in reality, if you have any sort of Google account (Gmail, etc.), and a cell phone to receive a text message, it’s easy as pie to set up. It is certainly far easier to set up than it is to deal with the aftermath of someone hacking into your Google account.
2-step SMS verification works like this: When you go to log in to your Google account, after you enter your password, Google will ask you to enter a 6-digit code – which they will text to you – before you can actually access your account. Think of this as a second password, however it changes each time.
“But,” you may ask, “what is the point if I never log out of Google? I will rarely use that ‘second password’ as I usually just stay logged in.”
The point is that nobody else can log in to your Google account. Because any time somebody enters your primary password (such as if they have figured out your password), they will be stopped there, because they will not have access to that 6-digit code, because it will be texted to your phone. (As an additional benefit, if you receive a 2-step verification code from Google and you haven’t just initiated a log-in to your Google account, then you know that somebody else is trying to access your account – and you will be very glad indeed that you set up that 2-step verification!)
There is also another way to get that six-digit verification code, and that is running the Google Authenicator app on your phone. This allows you to generate your own code – so instead of Google telling you the six-digit code, you tell the code to Google, via the authenticator app. (More on that later.)
In either case, the key to accessing your Google account is having possession of your phone; your password alone will no longer be sufficient.
Given the frequency with which Google passwords are stolen, and indeed how people are able to guess your Gmail password, it makes a great deal of sense to set up Google 2-step verification, especially given how easy it is.
So, here we go.
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To set up 2-factor authentication with Google, go to the link at the bottom of this article (after you read the article, that is).
When you click on that link down there, it will take you to the page to get started with setting up the 2-step verification.
Click on the “Get Started” button in the upper righthand corner.
This will take you to an overview page.
Click on the “Start setup” button in the lower right.
This will take you to the first step – setting up your phone to receive the 2-step verification code (the 6-digit code). You can choose to have the six-digit code texted to you, or to receive an automated telephone call with the code.
Once you enter your phone number, you will be taken to the next step, in which Google will send a code to your phone (or call you with it), and you will enter it.
Enter the code in the box provided, and hit the “Verify” button.
At this point, Google will give you the opportunity to confirm your “trust” in the computer which you just used to enter the code, saying that “If you lose your phone, you might be able to access your account from a trusted computer without needing a code. We recommend that you make this a trusted computer only if you trust the people who have access to it.”
You should only check “Trust this computer” if it is your computer over which you exercise complete control.
That’s it! The last step is to just confirm that you want to turn on 2-step verification!
Once you have it set up, you can also use the Google Authenticator smartphone app, which will generate the six-digit verification code for you, rather than having Google text it to you or call you with it. If you choose to do that, you will need to download the app (search for “Google Authenticator” in the app store) and you will also want to see our post on how to find the QR barcode to set up Google 2-step verification on your phone.