Multi-Factor Authentication for Seniors

Multi-Factor Authentication With Man Viewing Finances on Mobile Phone

By Kris Maksimovich, AIF®, CRPC®:

When it comes to multi-factor authentication, we often find that as additional steps are added to logging into online accounts, it can become confusing for seniors. Add to that the misery of regularly changing your login credentials and panic can set in when you get locked out of an account.

The more you have problems, the more likely you may be to give up on using these protections when given the opportunity not to. But when it comes to online security, the more you know, the better protected you will be.

The latest buzzword in cybersecurity protection is multi-factor authentication. But what exactly is it, and will it help you stay safe online? The answer is yes.

The history

It started with two-factor authentication (2FA). Just like it sounds, 2FA requires a second identification method for you to log in to your account. Remember back to your first experience with 2FA in its rudimentary stage? It simply required you offer your mother’s maiden name, but soon the list of security questions grew to three or more. You may have even noticed your bankcard or credit card provider requiring you to select an image key to use along with your login credentials.

Then companies started demanding longer, more intricate passwords with upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and characters. This has evolved into what is known as multi-factor authentication (MFA) that adds even more complex factors such as fingerprints and tokens.

Multi-Factor authentication

These identification methods add another layer of security to your password and ID login credentials. It means that when you log in to an account, you must provide extra information, or factors, that show you indeed own the account.

There are several options that companies may use to further establish your identity beyond your ID and password. They can be setup through:

  • Something you know – like a pin or security questions
  • Something you have – like your mobile phone that receives a one-time passcode, smart chip or hard token
  • Something you are – using biometrics like a fingerprint, retina scanner, voice recognition or behavior analysis

Probably one of the best known 2FA apps is Google Authenticator. But sometimes apps can be difficult for seniors to use, especially if they are not tech savvy. With Google authentication, the first time you use it on a device, you can “remember” that device, so you don’t have to authenticate your computer, tablet or mobile phone every time you want to log on. But if you buy a new device, you have to setup it up again and “remember” the new device.

Google Authenticator also allows you to use the app to access passcodes for other participating websites. It keeps the codes in one place and they even work when offline. But setting these up to work with the Google app can sometimes be tricky and depending upon the other program you wish to use with it, you may need to download a barcode scanner.

Setting up security systems can be confusing, but you can work with a tech savvy family member or a local computer maintenance consultant to help you get started. If your financial advisor adopts multi-factor authentication for logging into your accounts, their staff will be able to help you get setup.

The push-back

These authentication factors are supposed to establish that you know additional details about your account that nobody else should know. Unfortunately, many seniors are not taking advantage of the extra layer of security 2FA and MFA offer because they are intimidated by the technology or they find it too confusing.

To compound the problem, retirees who don’t spend a great deal of time online often bypass setting up 2FA or MFA if the option to skip them is offered, but this is counterintuitive to safekeeping your personal information.

Even if you do use 2FA by setting up security codes, the process of sending these codes by text or email can open you up to hacking if you don’t routinely update your computer’s software.  When you go to an outside source for a code, you can open yourself up for hackers to take advantage of certain vulnerabilities if backdoors are left open. This is why it’s critical you keep your computer software updated and maintain current antivirus and antimalware programs.

When coupled with practicing safe online behaviors, these measures add an extra layer of security, beyond login credentials and security questions which can be guessed at by highspeed password crackers.

The future is here

What can we look forward to in the future? Biometrics area already here. Phones like the Samsung S8 brought fingerprint technology with it, even integrating fingerprint use with a variety of apps. But there is also work being done with artificial intelligence (AI) and behavioral biometrics. These systems can measure the rate at which you input data using your keyboard, eye-hand coordination and even the pressure with which you type or tap.

Though your first instinct may be to reject adding multi-factor authentication to your accounts like Google and Facebook, it is here to stay and many financial advisory firms will be requiring it soon if they don’t already. The key to success is for your trusted advisor to help make using MFA to access your accounts it as easy as possible for you.


Kris Maksimovich is a financial advisor located at Global Wealth Advisors 4400 State Hwy 121, Ste. 200, Lewisville, TX 75056. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at (972) 930-1238 or at

© 2018 Global Wealth Advisors

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