Google Authenticator

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Google Authenticator
Google Authenticator for Android icon.png
Developer(s) Google
Initial release September 20, 2010; 8 years ago (2010-09-20)[1]
Operating system Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS
Platform Mobile
License Freeware (earlier versions were under Apache License 2.0)

Google Authenticator is a software-based authenticator that implements two-step verification services using the Time-based One-time Password Algorithm (TOTP; specified in RFC 6238) and HMAC-based One-time Password algorithm (HOTP; specified in RFC 4226), for authenticating users of mobile applications by Google.[2]

When logging into a site supporting Authenticator (including Google services) or using Authenticator-supporting third-party applications such as password managers or file hosting services, Authenticator generates a six- to eight-digit one-time password which users must enter in addition to their usual login details.

Previous versions of the software were open-source but subsequent releases are proprietary.[3]

Typical use case

To use Authenticator, the app is first installed on a smartphone. It must be set up for each site with which it is to be used: the site provides a shared secret key to the user over a secure channel, to be stored in the Authenticator app. This secret key will be used for all future logins to the site.[citation needed]

To log into a site or service that uses two-factor authentication and supports Authenticator, the user provides username and password to the site, which computes (but does not display) the required six-digit one-time password and asks the user to enter it. The user runs the Authenticator app, which independently computes and displays the same password, which the user types in, authenticating their identity.[citation needed]

With this kind of two-factor authentication, mere knowledge of username and password is not sufficient to break into a user's account; the attacker also needs knowledge of the shared secret key, or physical access to the device running the Authenticator app. An alternative route of attack is a man-in-the-middle attack: if the computer used for the login process is compromised by a trojan, then username, password and one-time password can be captured by the trojan, which can then initiate its own login session to the site or monitor and modify the communication between user and site.[citation needed]

Technical description

The service provider generates an 80-bit secret key for each user (whereas RFC 4226 §4 requires 128 bits and recommends 160 bits).[4] This is provided as a 16, 26 or 32 character base32 string or as a QR code. The client creates an HMAC-SHA1 using this secret key. The message that is HMAC-ed can be:

  • the number of 30-second periods having elapsed since the Unix epoch (TOTP); or
  • the counter that is incremented with each new code (HOTP).

A portion of the HMAC is extracted and converted to a six-digit code.

Pseudocode for one-time password (OTP)

  function GoogleAuthenticatorCode(string secret)
      key := 5B5E7MMX344QRHYO
      message := floor(current Unix time / 30)
      hash := HMAC-SHA1(key, message)
      offset := last nibble of hash
      truncatedHash := hash[offset..offset+3]  //4 bytes starting at the offset
      Set the first bit of truncatedHash to zero  //remove the most significant bit
      code := truncatedHash mod 1000000
      pad code with 0 from the left until length of code is 6
      return code

Other authentication software

The Google Authenticator app for Android was originally open source, but later became proprietary.[3] Google made earlier source for their Authenticator app available on its GitHub repository; the associated development page states:

"This open source project allows you to download the code that powered version 2.21 of the application. Subsequent versions contain Google-specific workflows that are not part of the project."[5]

Following Google Authenticator ceasing to be open source, a free-software clone named FreeOTP[6][3] was created, predominantly a fresh rewrite but including some code from the original. Google provides Android,[7] BlackBerry, and iOS[8] versions of Authenticator.

Several other versions of authentication software are available. Those that use TOTP and HMAC in addition to other two-factor authentication can authenticate with the same sites and processes as Google Authenticator. Some of the listed software is available in versions for several platforms.

See also


  1. ^ "Google Is Making Your Account Vastly More Secure With Two-Step Authentication - TechCrunch". TechCrunch. 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  2. ^ "GitHub - google/google-authenticator: Open source version of Google Authenticator (except the Android app)". GitHub. Google. These implementations support the HMAC-Based One-time Password (HOTP) algorithm specified in RFC 4226 and the Time-based One-time Password (TOTP) algorithm specified in RFC 6238.
  3. ^ a b c Willis, Nathan (22 January 2014)."FreeOTP multi-factor authentication". Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  4. ^ "RFC 4226 - HOTP: An HMAC-Based One-Time Password Algorithm". 2005-02-15. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  5. ^ "google-authenticator - Two-step verification - Google Project Hosting".
  6. ^ "FreeOTP".
  7. ^ A
  8. ^ "Google Authenticator". App Store.

External links

  • Source code of version 1.02 on GitHub
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