Skip navigation
Students in a classroom, overlaid with a color filter of Duo green
Industry News

2FA for Students: The Student’s Guide to Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Students all over the world are required to use Duo two-factor authentication (2FA) …and many hate it. You might be one of them.

They hate 2FA because their phone is currently sitting on the other side of campus after a fun night out. They hate it because their phone is dead. They hate it because it’s one extra step to get their financial aid.

But if you understood how Duo protects you, you might even secretly love it.

Why do I need Duo 2FA for education?

You see an email from your school telling you to enroll in Duo. Your first thoughts are: Why do I have to do this?

A frustrated student stares at a laptop next to a quote bubble that reads,

Does Duo even do anything? Yes! Duo performs an extremely valuable function that benefits not just your school, but also you. Let’s look at how Duo and 2FA protects you (and more importantly your private data).

Here's an example: In July 2022, prominent gaming sites, Roblox, Neopets, and Bandai Namco, all faced data breaches within weeks of each other that affected millions of users. Despite Roblox and Neopets offering users free 2FA, many didn't opt in and remained exposed. After investigation, Bandai Namco, best known for Dark Souls and Elden Ring, couldn't deny some files had been leaked, while Neopets released an update to their 2FA to strengthen their security.

How Duo 2FA verified your identity

2FA for students can be like a Bumble date. You agree to meet at a specific date and location (something you know), but pictures can be deceiving. You tell each other what you are wearing (something you have) to ensure you recognize each other.

Just like you needed the clothing description to verify your date, you need Duo to validate your identity! Like your password (something you know), the date and location are relatively easy to hack. To protect against this, Duo requires a second factor device that is unique to you, like your phone (something you have). Now if your primary credentials are stolen, attackers will have a much harder time gaining access to your accounts without having access to your phone. If the online gaming users had 2FA enabled on their accounts, it would be more difficult for hackers to gain access.

Duo deployed at universities may result in up to a 96% decrease in stolen credentials

What is two-factor authentication (2FA) for students?

Passwords are extremely vulnerable to hackers alone. With multi-factor authentication (MFA or also known as 2FA) a user’s identity can be authenticated and user trust (authorization) established by using two or three factor combinations.

  1. Something you know (e.g., passwords)

  2. Something you have (e.g., your smartphone)

  3. Something you are (e.g., biometrics, like fingerprints)

2Fa is the strongest way to keep attackers out of your school account and away from your financial aid and personal data. Whenever you use an SMS code to verify your identity to log in to your personal email account, you’re using a second factor for authentication. Similarly, schools can safeguard student information by enforcing 2FA for students accessing digital platforms.

Why do I need 2FA for university?

You may still be thinking, 'I’ve got nothing they want.'

A student holding a laptop and books shrugs, next to a quote bubble that reads:

Think again! Your personally identifiable information is extremely valuable, and its theft can have widespread implications. While a hacked and locked Instagram account is devastating, your school is trying to prevent phishing attacks—which often target your largest assets: financial aid, on-campus job paycheck, and other stipends. 

Implementing 2FA for student credentials boosts security measures and ensures robust protection for access to sensitive information within school.

Why do colleges and universities need two-factor authentication?

Phishing attackers often target students to access Federal Aid Refunds, exploiting vulnerabilities in electronic deposits. Students receive phishing emails, leading them to fake Financial Aid websites where hackers capture their login credentials. As such, the US Education Department recommends using 2FA for student access. Faculty and students alike benefit from the added security provided by 2FA for university systems, as a lack of security at logins can have grave implications.

At Hamilton College, a massive spear phishing campaign targeted the credentials of high-level staff with access to hundreds, if not thousands, of people’s sensitive data. If 2FA was already in place, the hackers would have needed access to a second-factor device to successfully access the sensitive information. Instead, the attackers were able to use the compromised credentials to log into a variety of applications holding personal data.

By implementing Duo Push, Hamilton College leveled up their access security and offered users a variety of secure ways to authenticate. 

“We rolled it out department by department, and things went incredibly smoothly,” says David Swartz, Network Systems Administrator at Hamilton College. “Once people realized the myriad of authentication options, they had nobody pushed back. Once they used Duo, folks were more than fine with the new tool.” 2FA doesn’t have to look the same for colleges or universities. With Duo, there’s a wide breadth of flexibility without sacrificing security. 

Improve your Duo experience and save time with Duo Push

With Duo Push, you tap a notification and can access your applications in seconds instead of waiting for a text and entering a password.

In addition to being a faster way to authenticate, Duo Push is also more secure than SMS and phone calls, uses almost no data and contains passcodes you can use while offline (like when you are on a plane).

If you want to save even more time, your school may allow you to purchase a U2F token like a Yubikey, a physical USB key plugged into your laptop, to authenticate even faster. Your school may have them available for purchase at the bookstore. 

Graphic showing a phone with a gaming controller and a Duo push. Text reads:

To save time and have a better user experience download the Duo Mobile application and use Duo Push

You can use Duo to secure your online accounts like Instagram and Amazon too!

Tick Tock! Which Factor is Faster? 2FA push! 

A user that uses SMS as their second factor could save time by switching to other, more secure, authentication methods like Duo's two-factor authentication aka Duo Push.

Picture of a stopwatch. Text reads:

2FA for students in summary

While hackers will continue to try to access your accounts and steal your credentials, Duo decreases the risk of compromised credentials at universities by up to 96%.

Next time you have to approve a Duo Push to access your financial aid, rather than thinking about the inconvenience of one more tap, think of the security Duo provides you personally.

Download Duo's free 2-Step Authenticator App available at Google Play and the Apple App store and start protecting all of your online accounts today.