Recently, Google has added a cool feature to both Gmail and Google Apps – two factor authentication.
What does that mean? When you sign-in to your email (or anything for that matter), you will typically have a username and password to enter. That is “one factor”, which means it is something you know. For various reasons, that information is relatively easy to compromise. For instance, easy to guess passwords or short passwords make it much easier to exploit an email account.
Two-factor authentication adds another element – typically something you have. For example, ATM machines require you to physically insert a card plus you need to know a pin.
In Google’s case, you can have Google send you a SMS (txt) message or actually call you with an additional code to login. Think of it this way, if someone is able to guess your password to your email account, then they would only have 1/2 the information. They would need physical access to your phone to actually compromise your account.
What are the downsides? Really, the only negative is that it will take just a bit longer to login. Given the rise in cases where email accounts are compromised, I think it is worth it.
Besides – it’s free.