Cloud-based storage provider Dropbox has revealed that it could start incentivizing its users to improve security on their accounts.

The San Francisco-based company currently offers new users 2GB of storage for free, then charges $10 per month for 1TB or $15 per month for unlimited. While the company would clearly love as many of its 400 million users as possible to upgrade to a paid plan, it seems Dropbox might offer a little bit more for free on the condition that users turn on two-factor authentication.

For the uninitiated, two-factor authentication, or 2FA, offers an extra layer of security on top of a password. So, rather than simply entering a username and password to access an account, it also requires a fingerprint, voice command, or, more commonly, a mobile phone number. So whenever you log into a service on a new device, for example, you would have to enter an extra code that’s sent to you by text message.

While Dropbox has offered 2FA since 2012, users have to switch it on — as is the case with most similar services. Unfortunately, many users ignore or simply don’t know about the benefits of 2FA, which is why Dropbox could start thinking outside the box, so to speak, to “educate” users.

“Changing the mindset of consumers is very difficult. Quite honestly the uptake [of two-factor authentication] is relatively low when we’re dealing with consumers,” Dropbox’s head of trust and security, Patrick Heim, told ITPro. “I want to get the message out we care about our customers, we want this turned on, and not enough people know enough to care.”

“One of the things we’re working on right now is a project we haven’t broadly disclosed yet, but it’s really to incentivize consumers to go through a security health-check both in terms of the authentication settings, the sharing settings, et cetera, and when they complete that, they may get additional free storage space as an incentive.”

Online security

With people increasingly living their lives in a digital environment, the issue of security is never far out the headlines. Back in April, news emerged that online betting giant Betfair let anyone change your password with knowledge of your email address and date of birth. And earlier this week, blogging platform Medium caused a stir when it revealed it was removing passwords altogether, requiring users to simply click a link that’s sent to their email address.

While no further details were given as to when or, indeed, if Dropbox’s new incentive-based system may roll out, it would actually be a decent carrot-on-a-stick to encourage users to improve their security. But of course, it would all come down to how much extra space would be offered. An extra one or two gigabytes might just swing it, but 250 megabytes probably wouldn’t.

Such thinking isn’t entirely without precedent either. Earlier this year, Google offered a 2GB bump on Google Drive accounts for users who completed a security checkup, though it was only a limited time offer.

Also, some banks offer extra privileges for adopting multi-factor verification, including letting customers transfer larger sums of money in each transaction — though it could be argued this is more of a security implementation than a deliberate incentive. Some online games also offer free “virtual” goods if players switch on 2FA.

While 2FA may not be the be-all and end-all of digital security, with almost half of all U.S. adults subject to some form of “hack” in 2013 alone, anything that makes it harder for someone to access your online information is welcome.


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