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Fear Factor: An Ode To Duo Authentication

It’s the end of an era.

Penn State recently announced that our dearly beloved Duo two-factor authentication will be phased out by Microsoft Authenticator. All students and faculty will use the new service by the end of 2023. Duo has been a staple on campus since well before any current students arrived at Penn State.

I think back to my freshman year when I was first introduced to Duo. Most of us had no idea what it was or why we needed it, which, to be fair, I don’t think we ever got a straight answer to. I remember the initial grumbles when people realized that the service they had just been told to download actually made it harder to log in. Penn State made Duo mandatory to download in 2020, consigning us all to its ticky-tack bullshit

The Duo app should not be confused with its green-tinted compatriot, Duolingo, which is a language-learning app. There, a small but determined green parrot threatens to kill you in your sleep if you don’t complete your basic Spanish lessons in time. Duo, on the other hand, gives you a big red button to “Deny” potential intruders from logging in without elaborating on what will happen to them. Not that I’ve needed it, but you’ve got your own personal set of nuclear codes on hand, ready to blow some hapless interloper to kingdom come.

I eventually got used to seeing Duo on an everyday basis. For better or worse, it’s been there for me, from my early morning classes to the assignments I turned in after midnight. Nothing beats pulling out your phone while half-conscious to sign into Canvas in two different ways.

I’ll never forget Duo’s smörgåsbord of verification options, which I have listed in order of palatability: “Duo Push,” “Passcode,” and “Call Me,” which I never chose for fear of mysterious men in suits arriving at my door.

I don’t know about you, but Duo was the first two-factor authentication service I ever used. I remember a simpler time when I didn’t need a second device to log onto a website. Now, these things seem to be everywhere, all claiming to want to keep me safe. God, I wish I wasn’t so popular.

Maybe I needed Duo all along. There Duo stood, protecting me from the hackers who were desperate to gain access to the paper I wrote about Kid Cudi’s discography during my junior year. There Duo stood, stopping me from logging into my own email because I had a bad internet connection. Come to think of it, only one of those things actually happened.

It’s been a thankless job, but, to someone, it has been important. When you’re sick of Microsoft Authenticator and yearn for Duo’s triumphant return, remember that the grass, like Duo, isn’t greener on the other side.

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About the Author

Adam Babetski

Adam Babetski is a senior double majoring in broadcast journalism and medieval history and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He's from the only part of Virginia without tractors and southern accents, except Richmond (reportedly). You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBabetski for hot takes about sports. For serious inquiries, email [email protected].

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