What Is Google Authenticator (and How to Use It)

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You should have two-factor authentication (2FA) turned on wherever you can, but there's a more secure way to do it than having text messages sent to your phone.

The alternative is an authenticator app, and one of the most popular of those comes from Google. It's called, unsurprisingly, Google Authenticator.

The app, which is available for both iOS and Android smartphones, scans barcodes on participating websites to create 2FA codes that serve as a second level of protection when you log in.

Each site is different, but a site that works with Google Authenticator (or similar apps like Authy) will have an option to scan the barcode when setting up 2FA. You then open Google Authenticator, press the + button, and scan to add the account.

In the app, you'll have a constantly updating 2FA code that you can use without having it texted to you. When you sign in to the account, enter that code, and voila, you're in. Most sites will have you verify that the code in Authenticator is working before you start using it to log in.

The benefits of an app like Google Authenticator, besides not having an SMS message hijacked, are that you have all of the codes in a central location and that they're available all of the time, even when your phone is offline.