Personal information is like money – value and protect it on Data Privacy Day (and every day)

Explanation of two-factor authentication, something you know, something you have.

Attempts to obtain your personal information are not likely to stop soon. In fact, scammers are getting better at making phishing emails and fraudulent attachments look more authentic. 

Recently, a Gmail attack was so convincing that many tech-savvy folks fell for the scam, according to Forbes. Even if you think you know a phishing email when you see one, you might fall victim. Enabling two-factor authentication ensures that should your password be compromised, there is a second level of security only you can satisfy.

What is two-factor authentication?

It’s a system that adds a second login requirement to go with your password or personal identification number (PIN). At Purdue, the second “factor” is a numerical code randomly generated on your smartphone or a key fob called BoilerKey.

Essentially, even if someone were to obtain your password (if you fall for a phishing email, for instance), your account would still be protected because only you can physically access your smartphone or key fob to get the necessary login code. The IT staff for your campus unit can assist you with setting up Purdue’s two-factor authentication service.

You can (and should) use the two-factor services incorporated by other accounts that contain personal information. For example:

  • iCloud because it could contain login information and passwords for other accounts.
  • Gmail because it could contain emails from other accounts and access to your contacts.
  • Amazon because it could contain credit card and other personal information, such as your address.
  • Dropbox because it could contain personal information for yourself and others.

This article from PC magazine gives a broad list of services with two-factor capability.  

Other ways to prevent theft of personal information

Here are other simple ways to help protect your data:

  • Check default settings on devices, such as your iPhone or laptop, and applications. Set privacy and security settings so they protect your personal information.
  • Turn off autofill on your browser. A hacker can capture information from form input fields on a web page without you ever knowing.
  • Before you download that free app, look to see what information it gathers, for example your location and contacts.
  • Watch out for Wi-Fi imposters with a name similar to a trusted access point you use. Also, disable Wi-Fi auto-connect on your devices.

Visit the Secure Purdue website for additional password tips and free anti-virus software. For more information on Data Privacy Day, visit the National Cyber Security Alliance website.

Writer: Kirsten Gibson, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-494-8190,

Last updated: January 25, 2016

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