As you’ll recall reading in Part 1 of this four-part series, a ransomware attack is where extortionists infect your systems with a virus (a.k.a. malware)
that locks up your data files or entirely shuts down your IT operations until you pay the bad guys to set them free.
The odds for success favor the crooks considering that at least half of all ransomware victims quickly cave in and agree to pay the ransom.
One of the best ways to thwart this type of cybercrime is by turning on Multifactor Authentication (MFA), aka Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
MFA is an extra layer of protection used to ensure the security of online accounts beyond just a username and password. It is a robust one at that because, with MFA activated, a second form of proof of identity (or even a third if you really want to get fancy) is also required. The methods rely on a user providing a password as the first factor and a second, different factor — usually either a security token or a biometric factor, such as a fingerprint or facial scan.
Typically, the security token is a code sent to you by text or voice from the tech giant that made your computer’s operating system. Gaining in popularity (and my preferred method) leverages authenticators that stores and generates these one-time passwords. Most modern password managers do this, like Dashlane and 1Password, and there are dedicated apps, such as Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator or Authy, to name a few. They give you the code, you type it in where prompted, and magically you are granted entry.
Or you could configure MFA to require that you swipe a magnetic strip or chip-laden card through a reader. Alternatively, you could also require a biometric scan of your retina or thumbprint.
Here’s how to activate basic MFA for a Mac:
- Choose “Apple Menu,” then “System Settings” (or “System Preferences”)
- Click your name (or Apple ID)
- Click “Password & Security”
- Where you see “Two-Factor Authentication,” click “Turn On.”
- Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the activation
Here’s how to activate basic MFA for a Windows 10 PC:
- Sign into your Microsoft account (or create one if it doesn’t already exist)
- Select “Security” from the list that appears
- Click “Security Dashboard” in the “Protect your account” section
- Choose “Advanced security options.”
- Scroll down to “Additional security.”
- Choose “Two-step verification.”
- Click “Turn on”
- Follow the instructions that then appear
Next time, I’ll discuss another effective anti-ransomware measure: password management software.