Scams and cyber attacks are so sophisticated these days that you can’t depend on passwords alone anymore. To ensure your account security, Apple employs additional layers of protection for Apple ID users, including two-step verification (2SV) and the newer two-factor authentication (2FA).
Both are security measures that require the user to verify their identity using a second code or device, protecting their Apple ID from unwanted access. If your Apple devices currently use 2SV, you may want to upgrade to 2FA for even better security. You can’t do this with every device, but we’ll show you how to do it if you can below.
What Is Two-Step Verification (2SV)?
Two-step verification (2SV) is a security feature employed by Apple that makes sure only you can access your account, even if another person discovers your password.
It works by asking for two pieces of information to sign in: your Apple ID password and a 4-digit verification code sent to a trusted device of yours. A trusted device can be any phone that can receive an SMS or has Find My enabled.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a newer security method built directly into Apple’s OS and the Apple website. Like with 2SV, 2FA means you need your password and a 6-digit code immediately sent to one of your trusted devices in order to sign in.
A trusted device can be any Apple device running iOS 9 or OS X El Capitan and later that you have already used to sign in to your Apple ID. This allows for a smoother and more secure sign-in process than 2SV.
2FA also kicks in when features that require heightened security are needed, such as when you:
- Sign in to your account from the Apple ID account page
- Sign in to iCloud from a different device or iCloud.com
- Sign in to iMessage or FaceTime
- Buy something from the App Store, iTunes, or Apple Books from a different device
- Make important changes to your device
This means 2FA improves upon 2SV by making all of these actions more secure, rather than simply activating when you try to sign in. It’s important to note that if you have a newer Apple device, running on iOS 11 or macOS High Sierra or later, you’re most likely using 2FA already. If you are, you cannot switch back to 2SV.
How to Update from Two-Step Verification to Two-Factor Authentication
The following people cannot update their Apple ID from 2SV to 2FA:
- People who don’t have any Apple devices
- People with devices running iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite or earlier, who cannot upgrade to newer versions
- People in geographic locations not eligible to use 2FA for their Apple IDs.
- People who are not iCloud users with at least one device running on iOS 9 or OS X El Capitan or later
Moreover, Apple said the following this regarding people with iCloud being eligible for 2FA: “While most iCloud users can turn on two-factor authentication, certain account types might still be ineligible at Apple’s discretion.”
People who updated their devices to iOS 11 or macOS High Sierra or later most likely had their security features automatically updated to 2FA.
However, older devices that have updated to iOS 9 or OS X El Capitan or later may need to update to 2FA manually.
To be sure, check what security measure your device is using from the Apple ID website:
- Sign in to the Apple ID account page.
- Click Account Security. Click Confirm.
- Apple lists what security measure you’re using and how many trusted phone numbers you have enrolled.
- To turn off 2SV, change your security questions and verify your birthdate.
You’ll receive an email stating that you’ve turned off 2SV for your Apple ID. Before turning on 2FA, be sure to sign in to all your devices on iCloud. You might get a prompt asking for your Apple ID password.
Once you’ve done this, you can set up two-factor authentication for your Apple ID on your iPhone or iPad by going to Settings > [Your Name] > Password & Security > Turn On Two-Factor Authentication.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Apple ID > Password & Security.
With technology becoming ever more complex and the world being more connected than ever, the need for more robust security measures is of serious importance. While 2SV is a good security measure, eligible devices should definitely upgrade to the stricter measures that come with 2FA to guarantee the safety of their data.
Yes, there’s a difference between multi-factor authentication and two-step verification. Here’s the meaning of these terms and how they differ.
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