IT Connect
Your connection to information technology at the UW

Frequently asked questions

Two-factor authentication and Duo

What is authentication?

Authentication is a process by which a person or computer proves they are who they claim to be. An example is a person signing in to a web site by providing their UW NetID and password.

What is two-factor authentication?

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a second layer of security when signing in. Normally, you verify your identity with a single factor, such as a password, which is something you know. Verifying your identity using a second factor, like a smartphone or hardware token, which is something you have, prevents others from signing in as you, even if they know your password.

How is two-factor authentication being used at the UW?

At the UW, two-factor authentication is used to secure applications that have sensitive institutional data to reduce the risk that this data will get compromised. Guidelines governing the use of technical controls to ensure the security of UW data come from UW Administrative Policy statements including APS 2.4.

We use a service called Duo to perform two-factor authentication. This service can use a smartphone app, a phone call, or a hardware token as a second factor to authenticate you. Most people use Duo via the smartphone app, Duo Mobile, which runs on a variety of smartphones and tablets and is simple to use.

Who is required to use Duo two-factor authentication?

Many systems with sensitive data require 2FA, including UW administrative systems, Hyak, and Workday.

Who is eligible for two-factor authentication?

Eligibility for 2FA is based on your affiliation with the UW, or rare case-by-case authorizations when no other alternative exists.

Learn more about 2FA eligibility.

Why do I need two-factor authentication?

It has become increasingly easy to compromise passwords. They can often be stolen, guessed, or hacked, and you may not even realize your password has been compromised. With two-factor authentication protected services, a compromised password won’t mean a compromised account.

What solutions preceded Duo?

UW has used 2FA for secure access to specific systems since the late 1980s. Previous 2FA solutions included SecurID (late 1980s to 2011) and Entrust (2008 to 2017).

Installing Duo

Is the Duo Mobile smartphone and tablet app free?


How long does it take to enroll and register a device for two-factor authentication?

The enrollment process should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes for first-time users. If you are planning on using the free Duo Mobile application, we suggest you install that on your smartphone or tablet now so that enrollment will be simpler.

How long will my authentication last?

A single sign-on session for access to web-based applications is designed to last 8-12 hours. However, individual applications can be configured independently and you may have to sign in to some applications more often than others. If you quit your browser, you will be required to sign in again.

What do I need to use Duo authentication?

To use Duo two-factor authentication you will need either a smartphone or tablet that can run the Duo Mobile application or a phone capable of receiving a voice call.

Signing in to a web application protected by Duo requires a modern web browser with JavaScript enabled. The browser must be a recent version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera or Internet Explorer (IE). For IE, version 8 or later is required.

To use the preferred Duo Push method of authentication, a smartphone or tablet with the Duo Mobile app installed is required. The most recent versions of most mobile operating systems are supported; for more information on older versions, see the Duo Mobile documentation. If you do not have a device capable of installing the Duo Mobile application, you can enroll a phone number that can receive a voice call to authenticate you.

If you are not able to use any phone-based authentication method, Duo also supports hardware tokens which, instead of relying on a phone, require you to possess a physical token. Learn more about hardware tokens.

How do I get the Duo Mobile app on my phone?

Android: Launch the Play Store app and search for “Duo Mobile”. Choose the Duo Mobile app from Duo Security, Inc., (not Google Duo). Download and install the application.

iOS: Launch the App Store app and search for “Duo Mobile”. Choose the Duo Mobile app from Duo Security, Inc. (not Google Duo.) Download and install the application.

Other smartphone platforms: Search for “Duo Mobile” from Duo Security, Inc. in your device’s application store.

Why does Duo Mobile ask for permission to use my camera?

Duo Mobile only​ needs permission to use your camera when you set up your smartphone or tablet. It only uses your camera to scan the Quick Response (QR) code used for activation. After activation, Duo Mobile doesn’t access your camera. You can remove this permission and Duo Mobile will work fine.

If I get a new phone, what do I do?

If you get a new phone (or tablet) you will need to configure the Duo Mobile application on your new device, as it will not work automatically even if your old device was already configured.

If you are keeping your same phone number, then you can use the “call me” method of authentication on to add a new device via “Manage 2FA devices”. Once authenticated, you can select to “add a new device” or “reactivate Duo mobile”. A more detailed walk through of this can be found at

If you are not keeping your old phone number, you will either need to use your old phone for authentication or call the UW-IT Help Desk at 206.221.5000 option 1 for a temporary passcode. Once authenticated you can enroll your device as above. A more detailed walk through of this can be found at

Using Duo

What is a “passcode”?

A passcode is a code that can be generated from the Duo Mobile app or a hardware token. You may also get a ‘bypass code’ from the UW-IT Service Center that will be a passcode you can use to sign in to the Duo authentication prompt. To sign in with a passcode, simply type the code you were given from the device or the UW-IT Service Center into the ‘Enter a passcode’ or ‘Enter a bypass code’ prompt when you need to sign in with Duo.

How do I generate a passcode using the Duo Mobile application?

A passcode can be generated on the Duo Mobile application by tapping the bar containing ‘University of Washington’ inside the Duo Mobile application. You should then be shown a set of numbers which can be used to sign in at the Duo authentication prompt. You can generate a passcode with the Duo Mobile application even if your phone is not connected to the internet and generating a passcode with the app doesn’t utilize any data or minutes on your cell phone plan.

What can I do if I am offline or out of cellular service?

It’s important to understand and set up alternative methods of authentication that are available:

  • No service, use the internet: Your Duo Mobile app can be used to approve authentications via the “Duo Push” method even when you don’t have service. This is helpful when the building you are in blocks service or you are traveling but find wi-fi.
  • No internet, no problem — passcodes on your Duo-enabled device: While the primary method ideally is your cell phone with Duo “push” notifications — which requires wi-fi or cell connectivity —  your Duo Mobile app can be used to generate passcodes while not connected. Go to “Sign in with 2FA” near the bottom of the main 2FA page for more information. See the above question for more details
  • Token: Hardware tokens are small security devices that support 2FA. Refer to Hardware tokens.
  • Security key: You can set up a security key (also known as Universal 2nd Factor, or U2F) device for Duo 2FA at UW. Refer to Set up a security key | IT Connect.
  • Another phone: You can use a different phone as your alternative. Refer to Set up a mobile phone or landline.

What should I prepare if I am traveling?

While traveling can take extra planning, Duo should be a small part of that. Many of the same alternative authentication methods detailed in the question above “What can I do if I am offline our out of cellular service?” can be your solution for travel. Taking a minute to determine how you plan to use Duo can save yourself a headache in the future.

From using the Duo Mobile app with internet or offline for passcodes, to requesting a hardware token before you depart, or even deciding to leave the emails at home and enjoy a break from being online, finding the best solution for you will get you started on the right foot.

If you are traveling internationally, it is also worth confirming that you will still be able to use Duo in your destination. Please see the question “Can I use Duo while outside of the United States?” for more details.

Can more than one person enroll the same landline?

Yes, more than one person can set up and use the same landline. The first person to do so can follow the instructions to set up a landline. The steps are a bit different for the next person to set up the same landline. Namely, when they enter the phone number for the landline, they’ll have to confirm they can receive a callback during the set up process. If they can, then it will be added. This is true for anyone else who tries to enroll the same landline.

What should I do if I receive a request to sign in with Duo that I did not initiate?

Do NOT approve Duo Mobile push notifications or Duo phone calls that you didn’t initiate yourself. They may be fraudulent, unauthorized attempts to sign in as you. Only approve 2FA requests you initiate yourself, knowingly and intentionally. To learn more refer to reporting fraudulent 2FA requests.

Can I use Duo while outside of the United States?

While most devices and sign-in options can be used outside the United States, it is important to plan ahead and enroll the device(s) you plan to use before you begin your travel.

If you’ll have reliable internet access on your device while abroad, Duo Mobile and its “Send Me a Push” option for signing in will work normally.

If you won’t have internet access on your device, Duo Mobile can operate while offline using the “Enter a Passcode” options; follow the steps above to generate a passcode when you need to sign in. A hardware token will also work offline but, since it is a physical device, it best to obtain it before you begin travel. Refer to hardware tokens to learn more.

Please note the “Call Me” option only works with phone numbers in the US (and parts of Canada). If you want to use this option, you must enroll in Duo using a US phone number and be able to receive calls to this number while abroad.

Lastly, the following regions are affected by Duo OFAC restrictions and will block authentication attempts. If you are traveling to one of these regions please contact UW-IT at

Impacted countries or regions:

  • Cuba (CU)
  • North Korea (KP)
  • Iran (IR)
  • Sudan (SD)
  • Syria (SY)
  • Crimea region (43)
  • Donetsk region (14)
  • Luhansk region (09)
  • Sevastopol region (40)

Use of personal devices

Can I use my own personal smartphone, tablet, or mobile phone for 2FA?

Yes, definitely. The University values personal choice and recognizes the convenience of using a personal device for 2FA.

Can employees use a personal device for 2FA, even for conducting University business?

Yes, again. Employees can use a personal device for 2FA, even for University business. A personal device enables safe and convenient two-factor authentication to systems used to conduct University business. From a cost and risk perspective, it’s often more effective than other 2FA options (such as landlines and hardware tokens). “Bring your own device” (BYOD) is a common operational model that acknowledges trends in society toward use of personal devices for user authentication.

Does use of my personal device for 2FA result in any data or other records stored on my device that are subject to disclosure as “public records”?

If you use Duo Mobile, there is no data stored on your smartphone or tablet. Period. We recommend use of Duo Mobile because it’s simple and secure, and one of the reasons for this is it creates no records on your personal device.

If  you receive phone callbacks, there is no data on your phone and you can delete the metadata from your phone’s history of recent incoming calls because it’s transitory and the administrative purpose is fulfilled as soon as you’ve completed the call.

In each case, the result is the same: no data related to 2FA on your device that’s subject to disclosure.

Do I need to take any special precautions regarding security of my smartphone, tablet, or mobile phone?

Yes. Using a personal device for 2FA comes with the obligation to take reasonable precaution to protect it. Such precautions normally include the use of a password or a PIN to unlock the phone, as well as maintaining current versions of your phone’s operating system and Duo Mobile.

Hardware tokens

Can I request a hardware token from UW-IT? Or register my own?

Yes. UW-IT will provide a hardware token if you need one. Or you can register your own, if it’s compatible. To learn more, refer to hardware tokens.

Hardware Token Request Form

What is a U2F token?

A U2F (Universal 2nd Factor) token is a “security key” (cryptographic hardware token) that plugs into your computer’s USB port and supports the U2F authentication protocol. The U2F protocol requires a supported web browser, so it can only be used for 2FA to web applications. U2F tokens have excellent usability and provide the highest security.

UW-IT does not provide U2F tokens, but if you obtain one, you can set up your U2F device to work with Duo at the UW.

Departmental use of Duo

I’m an IT staff member in my department. Can I use Duo on my departmental systems and applications?

It is possible to integrate Duo 2FA to protect applications that integrate with our single sign-on (SSO) services and on departmental servers and applications, if certain conditions are met. To learn more, refer to Add 2FA to your IT system.

Last reviewed February 2, 2021