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Staying safe with Google Workspace and 2 step authentication

I’ve previously written about using 2 factor authentication (2FA) to stay safer when using your Google account, even as a sole trader. I also mentioned how that particular authentication technique couldn’t be used with Google Workspace.

However, there is another version of 2FA or two-step verification that can be used by Google Workspace users which I’m going to discuss in this article.

What is 2 factor authentication (2FA)?

Essentially 2FA requires users to verify their identity through something they know (such as a password) plus something they have (such as a physical key or access code delivered to a device). It’s also called multi-factor authentication (MFA) or 2-step verification (2SV).

Do sole traders and small business owners really need 2FA?

Short answer? YES!

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman identifies that small business is the target of 43% of all cybercrimes. That’s huge! So let’s not become one of the statistics right?

2 factor authentication methods

There are a number of different ways people can verify their accounts. As a sole trader or small business using Google Workspace, you have four options by default:

  • Google Prompt. When you sign in to your Google Account on a computer, you get a “Trying to sign in?” prompt on your mobile device. You simply confirm by tapping your mobile device.
  • Google Authenticator. Google Authenticator is a stand-alone app that needs to be downloaded to your Android or Apple mobile device. When you sign in to your Google Account you also need to generate a verification code on your mobile device and, when prompted, enter it on your computer.
  • Text message or phone call. Google sends a 2FA code to mobile devices in a text message or voice call. (I’ve never actually used the voice call option – I’ve always found it easiest to use the SMS version). That code is then entered on the computer.
  • Backup codes. You can generate backup verification codes and print them ahead of time. Google suggests using these if you work in an area where you can’t carry a mobile device and having worked in such areas I can confirm they are a life-saver. They’re also good if you’re going to be travelling overseas without mobile roaming (no way to get SMS then) or patchy internet connection (no way to use the Authenticator app or Google Prompt).

The easiest verification method is definitely Google Prompt as there’s no re-typing of codes or need for another app and it is the method I most often recommend.

Check out the different ways of authenticating though, and pick the one you are most comfortable with – just make sure you pick one and stay safe online!

Further information

Looking for step by step guides on how to set up 2 step verification either as a Google Workspace administrator or a Google Workspace user (or both)? The following Google support articles may be of interest:

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