If you have an iPhone, Mac, or even an iPod you have an Apple account. Now think of what it's associated with: Your phone's location, your credit card, iMessage account, iCloud storage, and more. The password that protects your Apple ID is protecting a lot of sensitive information that a hacker would love to get their hands on.
We covered activating two-step verification for an Apple ID in 2014, but that was before Apple introduced two-factor authentication. This newer method is far more secure and anyone who is still using two-step verification is encouraged to deactivate it and enable two-factor authentication. Here's how to add that extra layer of security—and a lot of peace of mind—to your Apple account.
First things first
You might want to know what you're getting yourself into with two-factor authentication on your Apple ID. It's pretty simple: With two-factor enabled you'll be forced to enter an additional code each time you log in with your Apple ID and password on an unrecognized computer.
SEE: Research: Apple rated highest for security on mobile devices (TechRepublic)
Trusted computers will display a popup (Figure A) with the location of the user trying to log in. Once you verify that it's you a six-digit code will appear in the same window. Type that code in on the device you're trying to log in on and that's that: It's now a trusted device that you can log into without any extra steps in the future.
Two-factor authentication requires you to have at least one Apple device running at least iOS 9 or macOS X El Capitan. You'll do all the enabling of two-factor authentication from one of those two devices.
No matter which you choose it's still a bit of a slog: Apple didn't make this essential form of account security the easiest thing to take care of.
Enabling two-factor authentication from an iOS device
Start by opening up the Settings app. From there swipe down until you find iCloud. Tap on that to open the iCloud menu (Figure B) and then tap your name to bring up account settings.
The second choice in the list is Password & Security. Tap on that (Figure C).
Tap on Turn On Two-Factor Authentication (Figure D) and get ready to walk through a series of steps.
Figure E shows the screens you'll see immediately after tapping the option to turn two-factor on. Tapping Continue simply brings up the window in the second picture, and tapping Continue again will prompt you to answer two of the three security questions on your account.
Once you've answered the security questions you'll be greeted by the first screen in Figure F. Enter your phone number and choose to get your code via text or call. Enter the code as shown in the second image of Figure F, and that's it: Two-factor authentication has been turned on for your Apple ID. In the future new Apple ID logins from other machines will prompt you with a popup on your iOS device to verify that it was you before it gives you a six-digit code.
Enabling two-factor authentication from a macOS device
Start by opening the Apple menu on the left side of menu bar. Click on System Preferences (Figure G). That will open the main System Preferences window, also pictured in Figure G. From there click on iCloud.
SEE: 10 mobile security myths that need debunking (TechRepublic)
The iCloud window will open (Figure H) and you'll want to click on Account Details, which will open the second window pictured in Figure H. Click on the Security tab.
The security window (Figure I) has the option to Turn On Two-Factor Authentication. Click on that and you'll be prompted to enter a phone number to receive a security code. Put your number in, click Continue, and wait for the code. Put it in the window that pops up and you'll be all set.
Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.