Frequently Asked Questions
The information on this page provides general information about Multi-factor Authentication. Instructions for registering your phone are available in the Quick Guide, IT Knowledge Base, and how-to videos.
- What should I do if I lost/misplaced my registered phone or my phone is not working properly?
- What if I don’t have a mobile phone?
- What is the difference between a primary phone and any other registered phone?
- Should I register more than one phone?
- Can I log into a system with MFA if I don't have access to my registered primary phone?
- Is MFA compatible with all mobile phones?
- Why is Northwestern recommending users register a smartphone and use the Duo Mobile app to confirm their identity?
- What are my options if I have limited or no cell phone coverage?
- How do I register a phone with an international (non-U.S.) phone number?
- What if I am travelling outside the United States and I only have my U.S. phone number registered for MFA?
- What should I do if I get a new/replacement phone?
- Are my MFA notification preferences saved?
- How do I confirm my identity using a text message?
- How do I confirm my identity using a Duo passcode?
- How does the "Remember Me" feature work?
- Why is Northwestern enabling Multi-factor Authentication?
- What other universities are using Multi-factor Authentication?
- What if I am unable to complete the registration process or I receive an error message during the registration process?
- What should I do if I receive a “403 Forbidden” error when I begin the registration?
- Is my Administrator ID for myHR and SES also protected with Multi-factor Authentication?
- Is Google Voice compatible with MFA?
- What if I am studying, working, or traveling domestically or internationally?
If you have lost/misplaced your registered phone or your phone is not functioning , contact the IT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP), option 2 or email email@example.com for assistance.
If you do not have a mobile phone, contact the IT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP), option 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
A primary phone is the default phone that receives notifications to confirm your identity when you log into a Northwestern system enabled with Multi-factor Authentication. Only one phone can be primary. Consider the following when determining which phone is your "primary":
- If you are planning to travel, consider making your mobile phone primary.
- If you need access in your office but have limited cell coverage there, consider making your office phone primary.
- If you need access from home, consider making your home phone or mobile phone primary.
- If you need to add or delete a phone, consider making the phone you have available primary.
All other registered phones are considered “backup” phones. Your notification to confirm your identity will not roll over to your backup phone(s) if you do not approve a notification on your primary phone. You must take action to designate a backup phone as your primary.
Yes. Upon initial registration, Northwestern recommends that you register more than one phone, including a mobile phone, office phone, and home phone. Any registered phone can be designated as the “primary” phone to receive notifications without requiring you to confirm your identity with Multi-factor Authentication. However, an identity confirmation on your primary phone is required to register another phone after the initial registration.
It is recommended to register your phones in the following order:
- Mobile Phone
- Office Phone
- Home Phone
No. You must have access to your designated primary phone in order to successfully log into a system with MFA. However, you can reassign any other registered phone as a primary at time of log in.
If you do not have one or more back-up phones registered and need immediate access, contact the IT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP) or email email@example.com. The IT Support Center will verify your identity using your NetID security questions before providing you with login options.
Yes. iPhone and Android phones for use with the smartphone app (Duo Mobile) is supported. All other mobile phones, including Blackberry and Windows, can only register to receive a phone call.
Why is Northwestern recommending users register a smartphone and use the Duo Mobile app to confirm their identity?
It is recommended that smartphone users who are comfortable installing apps use the Duo Mobile app for:
- Security - because the app is specific to your device, there is less risk that a phone call could be forwarded to an unregistered device or that an approval on a keypad could be duplicated.
- Flexibility - at each login, you can select from several options based on the capabilities of your smartphone: push notification in the app, SMS message (text message) or phone call.
- Redundancy - the app can generate a one-time passcode to enable logins even in locations with no mobile or WiFi access.
If you have a smartphone, consider registering it to receive notifications via the “Smartphone app”. Once you have the “Duo Mobile” app installed on our smartphone, you can generate a one-time code to be used in place of “Approving” or “Denying” the notification. If you don't have a smartphone and have limited cell coverage, consider registering a land line.
Whether you are registering your phone to receive a notification via the smartphone app or a phone call, you will enter your international phone number in the following format: plus sign, country code, and phone number. For example: +974 XXX XXXXX for a Qatari phone number.
What if I am traveling outside the United States and I only have my U.S. phone number registered for MFA?
If you have a U.S. phone number registered and that phone is not available to you while travelling, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email request should contain the following:
- A scanned copy of a current, valid photo ID (e.g., passport or Wildcard) in order to confirm your identity
- the U.S. phone number you wish to have removed from your registration
Your U.S. phone number will be removed from your registration by a MFA administrator. Once your receive a confirmation via email, you may register your international phone number.
Note: If you would prefer to call the IT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP), please call during regular business hours Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST.
If you kept the same phone number, replaced your phone with a new phone of the same type (e.g., replaced an Android with another Android, or replaced your old iPhone with a newer model), and use Duo Mobile for notifications, follow these instructions:
- Make sure you have your phone available and that you have adequate cell phone coverage in your location.
- On your new phone, download the Duo Mobile app from the Google Play or iPhone App Store. Make sure you have the app installed before proceeding.
- On your computer go to http://www.northwestern.edu/mfa-register and log in with your NetID and NetID password.
- Click “reactivate” and follow the subsequent steps. As you complete these steps, you will receive a confirmation notification on the phone you've just reactivated.
- If you need assistance, please contact the IT Support Center: 847-491-4357 (1-HELP), option 2 or email@example.com.
When you initially register your phone(s), your notification preferences to either use the smartphone app or receive a phone call are saved until you delete your phone from the “Manage Your Phones” page.
When you are prompted to confirm your identity after logging into a system enabled with MFA, your notification preference is specific to that login. If you registered your phone to receive a phone call, your notification option (and therefore preference) will always be a phone call. If you registered your phone to user the smartphone app, you may also choose to:
- Receive a phone call
- Receive a text message
- Enter a Duo passcode
- each time you log in with your NetID and NetID password, provided that you haven't chosen to be “remembered”
- after 30 days after you log in with your NetID and NetID password, provided that you have chosen to be remembered and that you haven’t:
- changed browsers
- changed computers
- cleared your cache / cookies
Currently, text messaging capability is only available to users who register their phone to receive a notification on the smartphone app.
Once prompted to confirm their identity, the user can select “Text Me” from the notification options and click “Send My Notification Now”. The user will receive a text message from Duo with a passcode. The user must return to their computer screen and enter the passcode on the screen and click “Enter My Duo Passcode Now”
Currently, entering a passcode capability is only available to users who register their phone to receive a notification on the smartphone app.
Once prompted to confirm their identity, the user can select “Enter Passcode from Duo” and click “Enter My Duo Passcode Now.” The user must open the Duo Mobile app on their smartphone and tap the “key” icon next to their “Northwestern University” account to generate the passcode. The user must return to their computer screen and enter the passcode on the screen and click “Enter My Duo Passcode Now.”
Choosing to be remembered is specific to your:
- Browser Settings
The “Remember Me” feature stores a token in your browser on your computer/device. “Remember Me” won’t work if your browser does not save cookies either, because:
- You have chosen not to save cookies or you clear your cache and cookies each time you exit the browser as a personal preference.
- Your School/Department firewall blocks “tracking cookies.”
If you choose not to be remembered, or are unable to take advantage of this feature, you must confirm your identity each time you log in with your NetID.
If you choose to be remembered, you will be prompted to confirm your identity 30 days from your last confirmation. If you use several different browsers to access administrative systems, you may consider choosing to be remembered on each browser. Note that your NetID login is still required.
Northwestern is enabling Multi-factor Authentication to provide an additional layer of
password protection before allowing user access to University systems. This industry security standard better reduces the risk that sensitive data (research, personal identifiable information, financial) could be compromised should someone learn a user’s NetID password.
Several of our peer institutions are currently using or have plans to enable Multi-factor Authentication, including Penn State, MIT, Stanford, University of Michigan, Virginia Tech, Berkeley, Boston University, University of Texas at Austin, Indiana University, and DePaul.
What if I am unable to complete the registration process or I receive an error message during the registration process?
If you are unable to complete the registration process for any reason, contact the IT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP), option 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, please provide a screen shot or text of the error message(s) you received. Please resolve incomplete registrations as soon as possible so that you can access University systems as needed.
If you receive this error, you should clear your browser cookies, and cache. After clearing cache, close and restart your browser, you should be able to access the “Begin Registration” page. If you are still unable to complete the registration steps, contact the IT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP), option 2 or email email@example.com.
No. The current implementation of Multi-factor Authentication only applies to your NetID.
No. You will not receive notifications to confirm your identity on the Duo Mobile app using Google Voice.
The Multi-factor Authentication technology supports both domestic and international phone numbers.
- If you are planning to travel, consider registering your smartphone as your primary phone.
- If you have the Duo Mobile app installed, you will have several options to authenticate including a phone, call, push notification, text message, or passcode.
Last Updated: 6 March 2017Get Help Back to top