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Productivity Hack Of The Week: Protect Your Online Data From Cyber Creeps

No one wants their private emails or pictures out there for the world to see. Here’s how to make them more secure.

Productivity Hack Of The Week: Protect Your Online Data From Cyber Creeps
[Photo: Flickr user Yu Morita]

In light of some disconcerting news recently involving cyber creeps picking through our private accounts, this Friday we’re offering you a hack that will not only make your accounts a little more secure, but hopefully will put your minds somewhat at ease. Should we call this edition the no-hack hack?

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One of the best ways to step up your online security is by activating two-step authentication on your private accounts. Both Google and iCloud make this process available, and although many begrudge the onus placed on customers to be proactive about their security, making this kind of security a default is still a thing of the future, so it’s up to us as consumers to take an active role in our privacy. Here’s how to get started:

Google Two-Step Verification

After activating Google’s Two-Step Verification, whenever you log in to your Google account you’ll not only enter your password as usual, but Google will then send a verification code to your phone via text, voice call, or mobile app, which you will also have to enter during sign-in.

Begin by going to Google’s Two-Step Verification landing page and clicking Get Started, then Start setup.

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Next Google will ask you to re-enter your password, and it will then ask you what phone Google should send codes to. Enter your phone number, specify how you’d like to receive your code–my options were text message or voice call–click Send code, and almost instantly you’ll receive your verification code.

Once you enter your code and click Verify you can specify if the computer you’re using is a trusted one. If you leave this option checked, you will no longer need to verify with a new code each time you log in to Google from that computer. Next, confirm you want to enable Two-Step Verification and you’re done. Now wasn’t that easy?

Apple Two-Step Verification

Similar to Google, Apple’s Two-Step Verification will require you to enter both your password and a verification code any time you sign in to your Apple ID from a new device. The code will be sent using either SMS or Find My iPhone.

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Begin by visiting the My Apple ID page and click Manage you Apple ID. Next, sign in with your Apple ID and password. Apple may prompt you to change your password if it deems it too easy to guess. Take this as an opportunity to strengthen your data security and come up with a new password.

One trick to coming up with a strong password is to think of a word or phrase and either write it out or think up an acronym using some numbers that resemble letters. For example, I like bunnies = 1L1k3BuNn13s.

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Once you’ve logged in to your Apple ID account page, select Password and Security, answer your security questions, and under Two-Step Verification, select Get Started. Follow the onscreen directions and you may eventually receive a message that tells you to wait three days to enable two-step verification.

Once you’re (back) on this screen, you’ll supply a phone number that can receive text messages, Apple will send you a four-digit verification code, and you will enter the code into the Verify Phone Number field, and, voilà, your account is now that much more secure.

To help you work smarter instead of harder, we’re hitting you with a productivity hack each Friday. Check out our hacks here.

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About the author

Rachel Gillett is a former editorial assistant for FastCompany.com’s Leadership section. Her work has been featured on PopPhoto.com, AOL.com, and elsewhere

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