2-Factor Authentication (2FA) FAQ

What is 2-factor authentication (2FA)?

Two-factor authentication (2FA), also known as 2-step verification, is a security layer in addition to your username and password. With 2FA enabled on your account, you will have to provide your password (first “factor”) and your 2FA code (second “factor”) when signing in to your account. 2FA codes are associated with a specific device (such as your phone) or your phone number.

2FA Type

Description

Potential Option(s)

Level of security

Security Key

A physical hardware authentication device designed to authenticate access through one-time-password generation.       


Yubico’s yubikey

Highly recommended by Coinbase

TOTP

An algorithm that generates a code based on the current time and a secret key known only to you and the online service, in this case Coinbase

Google Authenticator, Duo

Second highest


SMS/Text 

Phone app authentication or text based authentication

Authy


Least secure 


How do Security Keys work?

For more information on using a Security Key please visit:


How does TOTP work?

Coinbase shows you a QR code, which is a representation of the secret key, which you then scan using an Authenticator app on your mobile device. Google Authenticator and several other authenticator apps allow you to generate TOTP codes using your mobile device or computer.


Which type of 2-factor authentication should I use?

Security Keys.  This is the most secure 2-factor authentication method as this utilizes physical devices that cannot be compromised electronically, so an attacker would have to gain physical access to your 2-factor authentication key and access to your digital information.

Coinbase supports all u2F/WebAuthN standard security keys.

Why is SMS/Text the least secure?

Since SMS and the Authy app are linked to a phone number, they can leave you susceptible to phone number porting attacks. These types of attacks involve an attacker transferring or “porting” a victim's phone number to a device the attacker controls, effectively taking over the number and associated 2-factor authentication codes.

Related Articles
Security Keys FAQ
How do I set up 2-factor authentication?
I have lost or need to update my phone or 2-factor authentication device

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