Authenticator App on 2nd Phone

Most Mobile Authenticator Apps will allow you to backup the Authenticator registration to an account.

Alternatively, if you have a spare phone (with or without a SIM chip), you may wish to deploy your Authenticator Apps to a 2nd phone, IPad, or Android Tablet to grant yourself additional freedom from being forced to using a single device for authentication.

Important Note: If the website allows it, you can register your QR code multiple times to different Authenticator Apps on the SAME or DIFFERENT phone. If you already registered to a site, you may re-register the QR code on both devices to ensure they both have the same “seed” for your login ID.

You may use your Ipad/Android Tablet without needing your primary phone near you while authenticating to your secure applications/websites.

Below is an example of using the following Authenticator Apps that registered the same QR code, e.g. Last Pass Authenticator (Red Shield Icon), Google Authenticator (Grey G), Microsoft Authenticator (Blue Lock Icon), and Okta Verify Authenticator (Blue “O” CheckMark Icon). 

We did a test to confirm that these Authenticator Apps are all time based with your unique registration QR Code. As you can see from the below screenshot, any time-based authenticator app will return the same code within that 60 seconds cycle before they rotate.

Please note that other authenticators do not base the return value ONLY on time but other variables. Example: SecureID Token (Cloud Icon), Symantec VIP Access (Yellow Circle with Checkmark Icon), Okta Mobile (Blue Icon), and IRS2Go – Authenticator & App (IRS Logo Icon).

As we see more accounts get compromised, we strongly recommend using one or more of any authenticator applications with your mobile phone. Please note, all of these authenticator applications are free to use by the vendors.

Every website you access with an account usually has a “two-factor” authentication security setting that you may enable. You can enroll your mobile phone with the provided QR (quick response) code.

Examples of QR Codes that you may scan with your cell phone camera. Modern cell phone will auto transcribe these pictures into text for a web site URL, text, or registration code. The below three QR codes are all text base messages that you may practice your cell phone on. The more characters, the smaller the blocks will be in the QR code.

Hopefully, this entry may have value to you for account recovery, or managing access for/with a partner, spouse, dependents, and parents accounts.

Additional benefit, if the primary phone is lost or damaged, you will still have access to your accounts without being forced to go through recovery methods on each account, e.g. disable Authentication App, prove your identity, access your account, re-apply Authenticator App.

Only negative to this process is that you must remember to register 2nd device at the same time as the primary phone, for any new websites or wish to update your account on an existing website/application.

Example for Facebook TFA (Two-Factor-Authentication) Configuration:

Select Security and Login / Two-Factor Authentication under Facebook Settings. You will need to re-authenticate with your password to ensure that you are the correct person to change these settings.

Next, select the “Authenticator App” Manage button to add in an Authenticator App. Have both your primary phone and your 2nd device available within one of the Authenticator App open. Scan the QA code with both devices. Do NOT click the Continue Button, until you have scanned with both devices. This QA code is the “seed” for your authentication app. If you have any issues, you can re-scan a new code to retry.

After you click continue, most application/websites will ask you to input the code from your phone/device into the website, to prove that it was recorded correctly. If you look at both devices, you should see the same code being repeated on both every 60 seconds when they rotate.

LassPass Example:

If you are a fan of LastPass, the online password management tool, you can enable the three (3) popular Authenticator apps as well. The Google Authenticator App selection may also be used with Okta Verify Authenticator App.

COVID-19 and Privacy Preserving Contact Tracing

Contact Tracing makes it possible to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus by alerting participants of possible exposure to someone who they have recently been in contact with, and who has subsequently been positively diagnosed as having the virus.” – Apple

The conventional deterrent from the adoption of contact tracing is the lack of privacy controls. Apple has to be involved when privacy is vital, and in time we are living today, having a framework that allows for privacy-focused contact tracing to limit the spread of novel viruses is extremely important. Apple and Google collaboratively have put a structure in place for enabling contact tracing while preserving privacy.

Below is a simplified explanation of how contact tracing would work using a mobile device, as described in the specification.

  • Use of Bluetooth LE (Low energy) for proximity detection (no use of location-based services which would be essential for preserving privacy)
  • Generation of daily tracing keys using a one-way hash function
  • Generation of rolling proximity identifiers that change every ~15 minutes and based on daily tracing key.
  • Advertise self proximity identifiers and discover foreign proximity identifiers.
  • User decides when to contribute to contact tracing
  • If diagnosed with COVID-19, the user consents to upload a subset of daily tracing keys.

To detect if one may have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, they would:

  • Download COVID-19 positive daily tracing keys
  • Contact tracing app computes time-based proximity identifiers from the downloaded daily tracing keys on the local device
  • Checks if this local device has previously recorded any of these identifiers

The above mechanism of determining if one has come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person preserves privacy by:

  • Ensuring that the contact tracing keys cannot be reverse-engineered into computing identifying information of the originating device.
  • Not associating GPS or other location services with the keys
  • Performing verification of being in contact with another COVID-19 positive person on a local mobile device.

The specification is preliminary, and there is a strong attempt to ensure privacy of individuals are protected within this framework. COVID-19 positive information uploaded onto central servers also DO NOT contain any personally identifiable information. The detection itself is a decentralized process as it gets computed locally on an individual’s device. Central entities are not in control of either detecting or informing people in this entire process.

All of this works very well if everyone does their civic duty and report when they are positive.

For a broad adoption of contact tracing, there are opportunities for further improvement though. The specification should talk about server(s) responsible for collecting uploaded information. A (mobile) device generates daily tracing keys, and although the keys themselves do not have any mechanism to be associated with that device by an external process, uploading these keys from the same mobile device opens up the possibility of linking information. IP address of a device that uploads anything to a server is always known to it. Applications that are going to use the above privacy framework additionally need to consider connectivity related exposure while uploading information to central servers. The specification should have a section and considerations on protection and controls for exposure of privacy as a result of connectivity.

Another area of improvement could be on controls around potential abuse of this Contact Tracing mechanism. As per the specification, a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 opts-in and uploads their daily tracing key information to central servers. The intent is for others who have been in proximity with them, know, and take actions to self-quarantine to limit the spread. Pranksters or other entities may use it to cause general disruptions by falsely claiming to be COVID-19 positive to unnecessarily or intentionally cause disruption. If such actions happen at a large scale, it will severely impact reliability, credibility, and adoption of contact tracing.

Preserving Privacy is not an easy problem to solve, and larger mindshare is needed to solve these challenges.

[Detailed specification at Apple’s website]