How to Set Up Two-Factor Authentication for WordPress and Plugin Recommendations
With the increasing frequency of cyber threats, Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) has become a vital shield against potential breaches. Despite its importance, many WordPress users may find the 2FA setup process difficult and confusing.
Fortunately, setting up WordPress 2FA is not as complicated as it may seem. In this article, we will explain how 2FA can protect your WordPress site and how to set it up. We will also list four excellent 2FA plugins that you can use.
What Is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication (2FA) enhances the security of your WordPress account. It verifies the user’s identity with a password and two-factor code, safeguarding the account even if the password is compromised.
Here are some of the most common types of two-factor authentication codes:
- One-time passwords. Numeric and alphanumeric OTPs are temporary codes generated by dedicated hardware tokens or authenticator apps. They can also be sent via SMS and email. This type of code is only valid for a short period of up to 10 minutes.
- Biometric authentication. Some 2FA methods use biometric data, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, as the second factor. This method hardens security by requiring something unique to the user.
- Mobile push notifications. With this 2FA method, users get a verification message on their mobile devices when logging in. Approving it completes the 2FA and grants access.
- Backup codes. These are one-time codes generated by the 2FA provider. Users can use them if they lose access to their primary authentication method.
- Secret keys. USB tokens or NFC cards can be a secret key second factor. They are highly secure as they require a physical object for authentication.
2FA is the basic type of multi-factor authentication (MFA). If you want more powerful login security, you can use more than two verification methods.
Some apps let you choose a preferred two-factor authentication method, with popular options being TOTPs and mobile push notifications. Some password managers might ask you to generate a backup code in case you forget the master password.
Why Do You Need Two-Factor Authentication in WordPress
Two-factor authentication is crucial for WordPress login security. It’s a strong defense against threats, including password breaches.
Statistics reveal that 81% of breaches are due to compromised, weak, or recycled passwords. Luckily, 2FA provides protection beyond passwords. Even if someone knows your credentials, they will need the second authentication factor to gain access to your WordPress user account.
Here are additional benefits of two-factor authentication for your website:
- Protection against brute force attacks. Cybercriminals exploit weak passwords by automating attacks with millions of username-and-password combinations. 2FA reduces this risk by adding a second authentication step.
- Preventing unauthorized access. 2FA prevents unauthorized users from gaining access and making changes to your WordPress website.
- Compliance requirements. Some industry regulations require 2FA to protect user data. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has encouraged medical facilities to use 2FA to comply with its password requirements.
- Securing sensitive data. 2FA adds an extra layer of protection to keep sensitive information and customer data safe.
- User confidence. Enabling 2FA demonstrates your commitment to security, which can boost user trust and confidence in your website.
Above all, implementing 2FA lets you focus on your business and content rather than security concerns.
How to Enable Two-Factor Authentication in WordPress
To enable 2FA in WordPress, you will need two key components:
- Security/2FA WordPress plugin. In this article, we’ll use Wordfence, a comprehensive security plugin known for its robust 2FA feature.
- Authentication app. To complete the setup, you’ll need a two-factor authentication app on another device, such as your smartphone or tablet. These apps generate time-based one-time passwords (TOTPs) for logging into your WordPress website.
With Wordfence and a 2FA app at your disposal, you’ll be well-equipped to fortify your WordPress site’s defenses. Follow these step-by-step instructions to enable 2FA and protect your valuable content and user data:
1. Install the Wordfence Plugin and Two-Factor Authentication App
To add two-factor authentication on your WordPress site, you’ll need to connect a WordPress two-factor authentication plugin with an authenticator application.
Let’s start with installing the Wordfence plugin:
- In your WordPress dashboard, go to the Plugins → Add New.
- Search for Wordfence Security and click Install Now.
- Click Activate.
- Follow the prompts to set up Wordfence. Note that you don’t need the premium version to get the 2FA feature. Click GET YOUR WORDFENCE LICENSE to get the free version.
- Click on Get a Free License.
- Enter your email address and choose Yes. Tick the box to agree with the plugin’s terms and conditions, and click on Register.
- Check your email for the license key. For an easier process, choose Install My License Automatically.
- You’ll be redirected to your WordPress admin area. Go to Wordfence → Login Security.
- Choose Yes and tick the box to comply with the plugin’s terms and conditions. Click on INSTALL LICENSE, and wait until the process is complete.
Once you have set up the WordPress two-factor authentication plugin, it’s time to install an authenticator application.
If you don’t know which one to choose, Authy or Google Authenticator apps are excellent options. Simply go to your smartphone’s app store, like the Play Store or the App Store, and install your preferred authentication app.
Some password managers like 1Password let you store your two-factor authentication codes. With this method, you’ll be able to store your password and OTPs in one app.
2. Set Up the Two-Factor Authentication
2FA isn’t automatically activated by Wordfence. Follow these steps to enforce Wordfence two-factor authentication:
- Go to Wordfence → Login Security.
- You will view all your Wordfence 2FA details, including a QR code with its alphanumerical version and recovery codes. Keep this tab open.
The recovery codes serve as emergency measures in case you lose access to the authenticator device. Make sure to download and keep the recovery codes in a safe place, like a password manager app.
Next, connect the plugin to the authenticator application on your mobile device. Here’s how:
- Open the authenticator app and select Add an Account or a similar option.
- Scan the QR code displayed on your dashboard using your app.
- The app will generate a time-based one-time code (TOTC).
- Return to the Wordfence Login Security panel and enter the TOTC into the verification code field.
- Click ACTIVATE.
3. Repeat for Other Users
Suppose your WordPress website has multiple user accounts. In that case, all users must use 2FA, making it a shared responsibility to safeguard the site.
Encourage each user to follow the steps you’ve taken to set up 2FA for their accounts – add a two-factor authentication plugin, get an authenticator app, and generate backup codes. If you have various user roles, including collaborators, involve them too.
As the site admin, you can enforce 2FA for all users. Here’s how:
- Go to the plugin Settings tab in your Wordfence dashboard.
- Change the 2FA settings to Required for all user roles.
- Set a grace period in days, allowing users some time to enable 2FA if they haven’t already.
WordPress Two-Factor Authentication Plugins
While Wordfence is arguably the best two-factor authentication plugin for WordPress, there are other alternatives we recommend:
- Two-Factor. This plugin provides a seamless and user-friendly 2FA setup. Its straightforward configuration makes it an excellent choice for enhancing your site’s security.
- miniOrange’s Google Authenticator. Its integration with Google Authenticator makes it a reliable choice.
- WP 2FA. Setting up two-factor authentication for your WordPress site and enhancing defenses against unauthorized access is easy with WP 2FA.
- All-In-One Security (AIOS). AIOS provides 2FA and robust security features, making it an ideal choice for thorough WordPress safety.
These plugins provide two-factor authentication features for varying needs to ensure better WordPress site protection.
Check out our article on The 7 Best WordPress Security Plugins to keep your site safe.
Setting up 2FA might seem like a small step, but it has a significant positive impact on your website security. With the right plugin and a reliable authentication app, you can easily implement 2FA to better protect your WordPress site from potential attacks.
Here’s a short recap on how to enable two-factor authentication for WordPress websites:
- Install a 2FA WordPress plugin such as Wordfence.
- Get a robust authenticator app, like Google Authenticator or Authy.
- Set up the two-factor authentication feature.
- Enforce 2FA for other users, including collaborators.
Remember, maintaining excellent website security is an ongoing commitment. Keep your site secure by regularly updating third-party applications and following best practices against emerging threats.
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WordPress Two-Factor Authentication FAQ
This section will address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding 2FA for WordPress.
Do I Have to Enable Two-Factor Authentication for WordPress?
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is not mandatory, but it’s highly recommended for enhancing your WordPress website’s security. It adds extra protection by requiring you to enter your password and a unique time-based code to log in.
What Should I Do if I Lose My Two-Factor Authentication Device or Backup Codes
If you lose your 2FA device or backup codes, don’t worry. Contact your WordPress administrator to regain access. They can help temporarily disable 2FA so you can set it up again.
Can I Use Two-Factor Authentication With the WordPress Mobile App
Absolutely! Two-factor authentication can and should be used with the WordPress mobile app for better security. It protects the user account seamlessly whenever you’re logging in via the app or web browser.