Apr 26, 2023
Google Updates Authenticator App for 2FA Security
Google recently released an update for its popular Authenticator app that stores a “one-time code” in cloud storage, allowing users who have lost the device with their authenticator on it to retain access to their two-factor authentication (2FA). The update was announced in an April 24 blog post, claiming that users would be “better protected from lockout” and it would increase “convenience and security.”
However, a Reddit post to the r/Cryptocurrency forum on April 26 suggested that the update could leave users vulnerable to hackers. By storing the one-time codes in a user’s Google Account, anyone who can gain access to the user’s Google password would then subsequently obtain full access to their authenticator-linked apps.
Cybersecurity developers Mysk took to Twitter to warn of additional complications that come with Google’s cloud storage-based solution to 2FA. They stated that while the update does assist those who lose the device with their authenticator app on it, it also makes them more vulnerable to hackers.
The most common 2FA hack is a type of identity fraud known as “SIM swapping” which is where scammers gain control of a phone number by tricking the telecommunications provider into linking the number to their own SIM card. This could prove to be a significant concern for users who use Google Authenticator for 2FA to log into their crypto exchange accounts and other finance-related services.
A recent example of this can be seen in a lawsuit filed against United States-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, where a customer claimed to have lost “90% of his life savings” after falling victim to such an attack.
Blockchain security firm CertiK has warned of the dangers of using SMS 2FA, with its security expert Jesse Leclere telling Cointelegraph that “SMS 2FA is better than nothing, but it is the most vulnerable form of 2FA currently in use.”
For those looking to avoid such a situation, the user on Reddit suggested that a potential way around the SMS 2FA issue is to use an old phone that is exclusively used to house your authenticator app. “I’d also strongly suggest that, if possible, you should have a separate device (perhaps an old phone or old tablet) whose sole purpose in life is to be used for your authentication app of choice. Keep nothing else on it, and use it for nothing else.”
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