What is Two Factor Authentication?

Let's say you have a safe to keep your important documents. There's a combination lock you have to use to open it. You're probably the only one who knows the combination, so its pretty secure... but if someone was really determined they could keep trying different combinations until they found the right one.

You think your documents are pretty personal, so you want to make sure no one but you can get at them. You buy a better safe. It still has a combination lock, but it also has a strong key-based lock. You're still "probably" the only one who knows the combination, but now you also need to have the key to open the safe door... and if someone steals the key from you, they still can't open the door without the combination. This is the essence of two factor authentication - it combines something you know (the combination or password) and something you have (the key, token, or other "second factor").

Duo Security Two Factor Authentication

Penn State Health and Penn State University are implementing Duo Security's two factor authentication solution. Simplistically, Duo turns your mobile phone or landline into that key (the "something you have"). You still access the applications the same way you always have from a computer; but when you're logging in, you need to have the device or phone you associated with your user account nearby so you can approve the login attempt. Once you log in, the phone or mobile device isn't needed any more for that session.

Duo allows for multiple options. If you own a smartphone, the best option is to install and use the Duo Mobile app. Duo also supports entering a code that can be sent to your mobile phone via SMS, or by calling a mobile or landline phone.

This video provides a quick overview of how the everyday authentication process works:

Also check out our users guide on using the Duo Mobile service.

Do I need to Sign Up?

If you check your Penn State Health e-mail using Outlook Web Access or use the Remote Access Portal while you're outside the Penn State Health network, you need to enroll in the Duo two factor authentication solution maintain your access. Beginning August 19th, 2014, you will not be able to log into these systems until you sign up.


This web site will walk you through the Duo Security enrollment process. Simply click the button below to begin. Once you are signed up, you will need your second factor any time you need to accesss PSH's Remote Access Portal or Outlook Web Access systems from the Internet.

Sign up »


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