Google Authenticator

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Google Authenticator
Developer(s) Google
Initial release September 20, 2010; 10 years ago (2010-09-20)[1]
Operating system Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS
Platform Mobile
License Proprietary (earlier versions were under Apache License 2.0)
Website {{#property:P856}}

Google Authenticator is an application that implements TOTP or HOTP security tokens from RFC 6238 in mobile apps made by Google, sometimes branded "two-step verification". Authenticator provides a six- to eight-digit one-time password which users must provide in addition to their username and password to log in to Google services or other sites. The Authenticator can also generate codes for third-party applications, such as password managers or file hosting services. Previous versions of the software were open source but subsequent releases are proprietary.[2]

Typical use case

Typically, users will install the Authenticator app on their smartphone. To log in to a site or service that uses two-factor authentication, they provide user name and password to the site and run the Authenticator app which produces an additional six-digit one-time password. The user provides this to the site, the site checks it for correctness and authenticates the user.

For this to work, a set-up operation has to be performed ahead of time: 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.

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.


Google provides Android,[3] BlackBerry, and iOS[4] versions of Authenticator. Several third party implementations are available.

  • Windows Phone 7.5/8/8.1/10: Microsoft Authenticator[5] Virtual TokenFactor[6]
  • Windows Mobile: Google Authenticator for Windows Mobile[7]
  • Java CLI: Authenticator.jar[8]
  • Java GUI: JAuth[9] FXAuth[10]
  • J2ME: gauthj2me[11] lwuitgauthj2me[12] Mobile-OTP (Chinese only)[13] totp-me[14]
  • Palm OS: gauthj2me[15]
  • Python: onetimepass[16]
  • PHP: GoogleAuthenticator.php[17]
  • Ruby: rotp,[18] twofu[19]
  • Rails: active_model_otp[20] (third party implementation)
  • webOS: GAuth[21]
  • Windows: gauth4win[22] MOS Authenticator[23] WinAuth[24]
  • .NET: TwoStepsAuthenticator[25]
  • HTML5: html5-google-authenticator[26]
  • MeeGo/Harmattan (Nokia N9): GAuth[27]
  • Sailfish OS: SGAuth,[28] SailOTP[29]
  • Apache: Google Authenticator Apache Module[30]
  • PAM: Google Pluggable Authentication Module[31] oauth-pam[32]
  • Backend: LinOTP (Management Backend implemented in python)
  • Chrome/Chrome OS: Authenticator[33]
  • iOS: OTP Auth[34]

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).[35] This is provided as a 16, 24 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 6 digit code.

Pseudocode for One Time Password OTP

  function GoogleAuthenticatorCode(string secret)
      key := base32decode(secret)
      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 until length of code is 6
      return code

Pseudocode for Event/Counter OTP

  function GoogleAuthenticatorCode(string secret)
      key := base32decode(secret)
      message := counter encoded on 8 bytes
      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 until length of code is 6
      return code

Open Source status on Android

The Authenticator app as available on Google's Android app market is proprietary.[2] Although now Google has moved the source for their Authenticator app to its own GitHub repository, in the past this was explained on the project's development page:

"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."[36]

An independent fork of the Android version of the software named OTP Authenticator[37] has been created, which was based on the last version of the open source code that had been provided by Google, prior to their move to github. Another Open Source fork named FreeOTP[38] is maintained by Red Hat.[2]


Google Authenticator can be used for the following websites and applications:


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External links