How to Recognize and Avoid an Attempt to Crack Your Two-Step Verification Passwords

This post is part of the series, SmallBusiness.com Guide to Business Computer and Tech Security: Advice, alerts and information about digital security threats faced by small businesses. You can browse other posts in the series below.

  1. Lynda.com Alerts 9.1 Million Users After 55,000 Accounts Are Breached | December 2016

  2. What Does HTTPS Mean? And Why a Small Business Website Needs the ‘S’

  3. Yahoo Security Breach is Another Reminder of Why Password Protection is Critical to Your Business

  4. Homeland Security Tips for Choosing Harder to Hack Passwords

  5. Passwords Are Stolen Everyday; How to Protect Yours From Being One of Them

  6. How to Recognize and Avoid an Attempt to Crack Your Two-Step Verification Passwords

  7. How Voice Recognition Software is Being Used to Detect Cyber Criminals

  8. How to Avoid a New Cyber Attack Attempting to Access Small Business Bank  Funds

  9. Seven Resolutions for 2016 That Will Help Protect Your Small Business Computers

  10. Top Ten Free Antivirus Utilities For Your Small Business | 2016

  11. Most Small Businesses Have No Cyber Attack Response Plan

  12. If Your Business Bank Account Gets Hacked, Your Bank May Blame You

  13. Why You Should Still Use a Password Management System, Even if You Heard One Was ‘Hacked’

  14. Advice From Google on Avoiding Scams Directed at Small Businesses

  15. More Tips for Actively Managing Your Passwords

  16. What Small Business Customers Should Know and Do About the JPMorgan Chase Cyberattack

  17. How Hackers Use ‘Social Engineering’ and How to Prevent It

  18. Ten Tips From the FCC for Improving Your Small Business Cyber Security

  19. Password Protection Advice from SmallBusiness.com

  20. Ebay Asks 145 Million Users to Change Passwords

  21. What is Two-Step Verification and Why You Should Start Using Them

  22. How (and Why) to Use a Password Management Application

  23. How to Reduce the Odds of Being Hacked While Using Public Wifi


On the SmallBusiness.com WIKI, we’ve shared the benefits of two-step verification on your email and financial-related accounts. We’ve also provided how-to information about two-step verification approaches for several of the most-used web services. In other posts, we’ve described an approached called “social engineering” that cyber-criminals use to convince people to share information with them that can be used in their efforts to access an account. Now, attackers are using social engineering to trick people (including you and your employees) into providing them with information related to your two-step password verification process.


In their recently released 2016 Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec describes many ways cyber-criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their efforts to crack the accounts of businesses, large and small, including new approaches to convince individuals to provide them with information that can help them get around a two-step verification password. For example, the illustration below describes a social engineering scam that attackers are using in their attempts to access Gmail accounts.

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Advice on computer and network security from Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report

As attackers evolve, there are many steps businesses and consumers can take to protect themselves. As a starting point, Symantec recommends the following best practices. (Be sure to share these with your employees.)

For Businesses

Don’t get caught flat-footed | Use advanced threat and adversary intelligence solutions to help you find indicators of compromise and respond faster to incidents.

Employ a strong security posture | Implement multi-layered endpoint security, network security, encryption, strong authentication and reputation-based technologies. Partner with a managed security service provider to extend your IT team.

Prepare for the worst | Incident management ensures your security framework is optimized, measurable and repeatable, and that lessons learned improve your security posture. Consider adding a retainer with a third-party expert to help manage crises.

Provide ongoing education and training | Establish simulation-based training for all employees as well guidelines and procedures for protecting sensitive data on personal and corporate devices. Regularly assess internal investigation teams—and run practice drills—to ensure you have the skills necessary to effectively combat cyber threats.

For Consumers

Use strong passwords | Use strong and unique passwords for your accounts. Change your passwords every three months and never reuse your passwords. Additionally, consider using a password manager to further protect your information.

Think before you click | Opening the wrong attachment can introduce malware to your system. Never view, open or copy email attachments unless you are expecting the email and trust the sender.

Protect yourself | An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure. Use an internet security solution that includes antivirus, firewalls, browser protection and proven protection from online threats.

Be wary of scareware tactics | Versions of software that claim to be free, cracked or pirated can expose you to malware. Social engineering and ransomware attacks will attempt to trick you into thinking your computer is infected and get you to buy useless software or pay money directly to have it removed.

Safeguard your personal data | The information you share online puts you at risk for social engineered attacks. Limit the amount of personal information you share on social networks and online, including login information, birth dates and pet names.