Why Using Passwords With Your Phone as a Second Factor is Not Enough

As different security technologies have evolved, users have become increasingly tired of the ever-evolving security solutions presented. At first users were asked to just pick more complex passwords and then they were asked to turn on a second factor (like a phone) but currently neither of these solutions are sufficient.

With hackers now targeting the SMS infrastructure (which has been designed without proper safeguards to allow for government supervision), the standard of password+SMS second factor is no longer enough. In fact, the more pressing issue is the proliferation of phishing attacks that incorporate the SMS second factor in their cloned pages. The only solution that is easy enough for users to use and has successfully (up to now) mitigated both of these issues is a Yubikey type device.

Yubikeys look like a key and function much the same way as a door key but for your tech activities. The benefit of a Yubikey is threefold:

  1. They provide a strong second factor for your accounts that is easy to use. Buy two so that you will have a backup if you loose it (the same as having a backup key to your house). All you have to do is insert the device (or tap it to the back of your NFC enabled phone) and push the small button to activate your second factor.
  2. They mitigate phishing as any phishing site will not be recognized by your Yubikey (as reported by your browser).
  3. As a hardware device separated from any other online device (your phone, computer, etc), they are much harder to hack or extract information from. Yubikeys are designed to be write only devices that cannot be read once the secrets have been saved to them. In this way, there is some physical security as you will be aware of the absence of your Yubikey if someone else has it.

One other nice benefit is if a service doesn’t support U2F (just plug the device in and push the button), you can use a traditional Authenticator app but store the secrets on the device. This is less resilient to phishing (you could give your authentication key to a phishing website unknowingly) but still benefits from the other advantages of Yubikeys.

Make sure when you do setup your Yubikey that you remove your SMS second factor to ensure this weak point isn’t still active in your account. In the case of Google accounts, they require you to setup SMS as a second factor before you can add additional second factors but you can remove this SMS second factor once you have added another one (like the Yubikey).

A Theory of the Cause and Prevention of Multiple Sclerosis

This paper has been drawn together through a combination of personal motivations as someone who has watched this disease affect loved ones, personal thought as someone who wants to contribute to the wellbeing of others, and personal research as someone who is both persistent and a professional troubleshooter.  Nevertheless, having no training in the medical field and having no qualifications as a doctor or medical researcher beyond the motivations described above, I am acutely aware of my own limitations in contributing to a field where many more qualified individuals have gone before me.  Despite all this, I felt compelled to write down the ideas I have been researching with the hope that it might be helpful to the medical community at large.

One of the most unique traits of multiple sclerosis is its seemingly geographic connections.  The combination of this factor with its seemingly indiscriminate nature towards second generation immigrants set the course to search for a geographically applied but perhaps (some disagree) ethnically unrelated marker[1].  The first place to start for something like this is something government mandated.  The scope of different government mandated items is enormous.  The primary problem is further complicated by the tendency for higher rates of MS in family members and in women.  To try to narrow down the search for such a daunting group of government mandated items required further isolation.

In order to understand how this process proceeded, we need to examine the main focus of MS during my reading.  Through a chapter on the immune system in “Life Unfolding” by Jamie Davies, I was intrigued by the statistical process by which the immune system, using T cells, identifies foreign hostile intruders to the body while avoiding detecting the body itself.  More specifically, I was interested in the role of iodine in maintaining and promoting correct function of the immune system to perform this function.[2]  If an abundance of iodine, causing the immune system to become very active, was suddenly followed by an iodine deficiency which prevented the immune system from correctly identifying T cells that contained markers for myelin.

The main interest I had in iodine was its generally accepted governmental prescription through iodized salt.  Iodized table salt was a perfect way for many governments distribute iodine to general populations thereby preventing iodine deficiencies and many serious illnesses this causes.  Nevertheless, salt is not generally viewed as good by all people due to high blood pressure and other potentially negative side effects.  Also, the importance of table salt in order to avoid iodine deficiency is not generally understood or considered when cutting out or decreasing salt in ones diet.  Therefore, it is quite possible that one could suddenly cut out a significant source of iodine in the body causing rapid fluctuation of iodine levels.  It is my belief that this could lead to statistically probable situations in the thymus where T cells that should be destroyed because they contain myelin markers are allowed to proliferate.

There are two other factors that I believe also point towards iodized salt as the key contributor towards creating the conditions for MS.  The first is the impact that swings in sodium levels in the body have on myelin.[3]  While the swings might not be significant enough to cause ODS, it is my hypothesis that they might be significant enough to cause enough myelin cell death that myelin cell fragments become statistically more likely for T cells to encounter on phagocytes.  The second factor is the higher prevalence of MS in women.  With the natural dangers of iodine deficiency during pregnancy and breast feeding[4], it is my hypothesis that this could be part of what may account for the higher rate of MS in women.

Where there appear to be exceptions to the rule (countries with iodized salt but without MS) some of this could be explained by the existence of iodine or lack there of in other sources.  In New Zealand, for example, there is iodine in both salt and bread to combat iodine deficiencies.  Where there are more sources of iodine, there is less chance for sudden drops in iodine.  Another example is Australia where it appears there is a north-south gradient for MS[5] but where there is also a north-south gradient for iodine deficiency.[6]

In conclusion, it is my hypothesis that sudden changes in iodine (and salt) levels due to decreasing iodized salt intake create statistically probably conditions for the immune system to develop T cells that target myelin leading to MS.  Prevention of MS would then mean more consistently regulating iodine to avoid severe drops or spikes in iodine levels.  While I am very aware that these ideas are far from complete, it is my hope that these ideas might help researchers with much more understanding than I so that we can not only begin to understand the causes of MS better but work more concretely towards a cure or “immunization”.

[1] https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Who-Gets-MS

[2] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01573/full

[3] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000775.htm

[4] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iodine-deficiency-symptoms#section8

[5] https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/2017/10/25/ms-paris2017-factors-influencing-increasing-ms-rates-vary-across-the-globe-researchers-say/

[6] https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/proposals/documents/The%20prevalence%20and%20severity%20of%20iodine%20deficiency%20in%20Australia%2013%20Dec%202007.pdf