It is no longer enough to secure your accounts with just a password – these are too easily compromised, particularly considering people's tendency to reuse the same password for multiple sites and services. Microsoft Authenticator is a solution to this problem, giving you the option of either using your phone as an authentication device, or enabling multi-factor authentication for added security.
The app is available for iOS and Android devices, and can be used in conjunction with various Microsoft services such as Outlook, OneDrive and Office, as well a various services from other providers. The first way in which you can use the app eliminates the need to use passwords at all, so there is no risk of you forgetting the information you need to access your accounts.
You can log into a Microsoft account by simply entering your username or email address, and then a verification notification will be sent to your phone. You can authenticate this with a PIN, your fingerprint or face ID, and you will be instantly logged in.
The other option is to use multi-factor / two-factor authentication. With this enabled on your account, you will have to provide your username and password to access your account, as well as using the Microsoft Authenticator app to provide a code, PIN, face ID or fingerprint to prove it was you logging into the account.
The app can go further than this for schools and organisations that want to use security certificates to ensure that logins and verifications are coming from authentic, trusted devices. In these scenarios, the single sign-in feature means that once you are logged into an account on your device, you will remain signed in with no need to prove your identity or provide a password again.
Other features of the app include the ability to change account passwords, and to review account activity to make sure that there has been nothing suspicious going on.
From a security and convenience point of view, Microsoft Authenticator is worth its weight in gold – and it's all the more appealing thanks to the fact that it is free of charge.