I want my email and the rest of my digital life to be secure, so I like the idea of two-factor authentication. The problem is I travel a lot. When I am in Europe or the US, I don’t use my Australian phone because I don’t want to pay for roaming, and because I may be away for months at a time.
Singapore picture from Shutterstock
I use a local SIM when away, and therefore won’t get the SMS from Google. I use a tablet a lot too, so two-factor authentication with a USB key is only of limited use. So far I have left two-factor off, because I don’t want to be locked out when overseas. What are my options? Thanks, Travelling Unsecured.
As a fellow frequent traveler, I feel your pain. It’s especially annoying when online services take it upon themselves to enable two-factor authentication simply because your IP geolocation has changed. We once got locked out of our YouTube account during an overseas conference and had to scramble to upload the video through other means: an extra headache that we definitely didn’t need.
Some online services provide alternative methods such as dedicated code generators. These are offline applications that grant the user a randomly generated access code — without the need for internet or SMS. Unfortunately, these solutions tend to be limited to specific services, such as online banking.
Some services also provide backup codes that can be entered when two-factor authentication isn’t an option. These tend to be supplied only once during signup, so make sure you take note of it and keep it somewhere secure.
You can also change the phone number to that of a trusted friend or family member who lives locally, although we suspect this might strain the relationship somewhat if you’re constantly requesting codes.
To be honest, none of the above solutions are perfect. As we’ve noted in the past, there’s no easy way around this situation. It’s basically one of the trade-offs you accept for a higher level of security.
We’d also like to hear from readers. If you’ve come across a solution to the above predicament, do let TU know in the comments section below.
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