I’ve written a backgrounder on multi-factor authentication at the Network for Learning blog. It’s written for teachers and people working in the educational sector, which means it’s accessible for non-technical readers.
You’ll see 2FA when you use popular online sites and services. Google’s G Suite for Education uses it. You’ll see it when you use Gmail, Apple or Microsoft cloud services.
There are a couple of points the N4L blog post doesn’t make, mainly in the interest of keeping things simple and not taking sides.
Easier with Apple
The first is that multi-factor or two-factor authentication is much easier if you live in Apple’s world. When you get a txt confirmation during the sign-in process on your iPhone, your Mac or iPad will automatically insert this on the web page, there’s nothing else to do.
Apple calls this feature ‘continuity‘.
There is no racing to copy the code down, no risk of mistyping those codes.
It makes multi-factor authentication frictionless. That’s good, because you are more likely to use it and not be tempted to avoid it.
At the time of writing there is no direct comparison for this if you choose to work with Windows and Android devices. While some geekier types do have workarounds, they are far from frictionless and are too complex for everyday users to master.
This level of integration and convenience is often overlooked by Apple’s critics, but it saves time and keeps you safer.
Likewise, biometric log-ins are dependent on your hardware choices. In this case it is far wider than Apple. Not every brand of phone or computer deals well with fingerprint or face recognition.
There are workarounds, but it is worth checking on the biometric options before you buy a laptop or a phone. You may pay a little more for a device with face recognition or a fingerprint reader. It’s worth it.