Multi-Factor Authentication: Switching Google Authenticator to Authy

VertigoRay/ June 21, 2017/ Uncategorized/ 0 comments

I’ve been a long time fan of Google Authenticator because Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a must in today’s easily compromised society. Unfortunately, Google Authenticator has been a struggle for many people, and I’m glad that I recently discovered Authy.

FYI: 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) is Multi-Factor Authentication. However, not all MFA is 2FA.

Google Authenticator Woes

Google Authenticator provides a neat way to use MFA. But it has a massive downside that is mostly ignored. If you lose/reset/replace your phone (which is normally your primary MFA device) then you’re likely completely out of luck. This is why I started using Google Authenticator on my tablet as a backup.

Why? Because all your MFA codes are gone, and never to be seen again. The huge effort in recovering from this sort of mini-disaster makes me cry.

I’ve finally found the solution that will end these woes. Why has it taken me so long?

Authy App

Authy is a fully-fledged MFA service. But don’t get this confused with Google Authenticator. They’re completely different.

What I’m referring to specifically is the Authy App. The Authy App also handles Google Authenticator MFA code registration. This means that instead of using the official Google app, you’ll now use the Authy App instead.

But isn’t the problem of your losing your phone exactly the same? No; because with an Authy account you can now backup your Google Authenticator codes off your phone (to your Authy account via the app). You read that right: You now have Google Authenticator backups!

What happens if you lose/reset your phone? You just download the Authy App and retrieve your Google Authenticator codes from their backup.

It’s really as easy as that!

LastPass Authenticator

LastPass is service that remembers your passwords, so that you don’t have to.

The LastPass service is a cloud-based password manager with extensions, mobile apps, and even desktop apps for all the browsers and operating systems you could want. It’s extremely powerful and even offers a variety of two-factor aumthentication options so you can ensure no one else can log into your password vault. LastPass stores your passwords on LastPass’s servers in an encrypted form – the LastPass extension or app locally decrypts and encrypts them when you log in, so LastPass couldn’t see your passwords if they wanted to.

LastPass has recently launched LastPass Authenticator. Their app also backups all of your MFA tokens to your LastPass account. Keep in mind, I’m a huge fan of LastPass, but it seems like a horribly bad idea to keep your passwords and MFA backups in the same service. With that said, I decided to go with Authy.

Getting Setup in Authy

You will have to manually tranfer all those Multi-Factor Authentication codes you currently have running on the original Google Authenticator app over to your new Authy app.

You can’t transfer them directly, so it’s more of a “turn it off and on again” process. These are the basic steps:

For every Google Authenticator account you have:

  1. Go to the original service for the account and remove Google Authenticator 2FA.
  2. Re-enable Google Authenticator for that account
  3. Use the Authy App instead of Google Authenticator app to register the account.

It might be a bit tedious, but if you’ve already experienced the pain that comes with losing your GA codes, then you’ll agree some tedium is a cheap price to pay for the huge upside.

Don’t forget to turn on the app protection pin; under settings of the app. This way, your MFA codes have that extra layer of protection from people you otherwise trust to peruse you phone.

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