Turning on 2-factor authentication for gmail

I recently turned on 2-factor authentication for my personal Gmail account. I have had it on for my foursquare account for quite some time for security purposes, but I never thought about turning it on for my personal account. After reading this account via Wired of Mat Honan losing almost everything – I decided to take the plunge.

Since I already had 2-factor on for work it was not that complicated to make the switch.

I highly advise getting the Google Authenticator app if you are going to do this as it makes having the codes necessary for logins much easier. The app also handles multiple logins very easily.

The biggest challenge is setting up apps that use your gmail authentication every day. For me these were;

iPhone mail + cal
Browser sync
Browser mail
And a handful of others

Each app that you have authed in the past or need ongoing access to needs an application specific password. This sounds complicated and google does not make the process easy, probably because once its done you never go back to this complex settings area. The benefit is that you can immediately control app specific access to your gmail account.

The truth is that my gmail is essentially a gateway into the rest of my identity. I was amazed at how long I went without two factor authentication for gmail. Along with the typical security controls in place which monitor your account in the background, this is a (in my opinion) a necessary step for anyone that has much of their identity tied to a gmail address.

The added security comes at some time cost as you need a 6 digit pin when you use a new machine to login for the first time. If you have your phone handy with the app you should be all set. You also get the option to print out a set of codes for backup. It’s kind of a nerdy set of your own special codes but worth it if you need them.

All Google related login products will require the 6 digit code – but again its worth it.