Google Authenticator adds support for syncing 2FA codes to the cloud
The Google Authenticator app has been updated with a much requested feature, cloud backup. The new feature is available on Android and iOS versions of the app.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a must-enable option that allows you to protect your online accounts from being hacked. Authy has offered 2FA account syncing for many years. But Google Authenticator, which is equally, if not more popular, lacked the option. The app was launched in 2010, but has barely evolved over the years, and users had been requesting the Mountain View company to add support for a cloud backup option.
Google Authenticator can now sync your accounts between multiple devices
Think about it, if you lose access to your device, you could use a backup code (recovery code) to access your Google account, but what about all the other accounts that you had added to the authenticator app? Without access to the phone, you would be essentially be locked out of your own accounts. Syncing 2FA codes can be particularly useful if your phone gets stolen, or stops working all of a sudden, or if you had to factory reset your mobile to fix some issue.
Today's Google Authenticator update solves this problem by adding support for syncing 2FA codes. To use it, you will need to sign in to your Google account. The app will prompt you to choose the account that you want to use for syncing. Select the ID, and tap on Continue. That's it, the app will automatically backup the 2FA details of all your accounts to the cloud. It displays a small cloud icon at the top of the screen to indicate the synchronization status. If you have a second device, open the Google Authenticator app on it, and select the account to sign in to, this will sync the associated accounts and their 2FA tokens.
What if you want to stop using the cloud sync feature? Maybe you chose the wrong account to sync the data to, or you want to select a different one? Tap on your profile icon in the top right corner of the app to manage your account. If you wish to remove 2FA codes from Google Authenticator's cloud sync, tap the option that is labeled "Use without an account". Confirm the action, and the app will stop syncing the accounts across your devices, you will still be able to access the codes on the device. The Google Authenticator app has a new icon that looks like a colorful asterisk.
Refer to the official announcement for more details.
Should you use Google Authenticator's cloud sync feature?
While the feature is convenient, it comes with a potential risk factor. Theoretically, a hacker who has managed to gain access to your Google account will also have access to your 2FA codes. I think it's worth mentioning that you don't need to sign in to your Google account to use Google Authenticator normally, it is optional and only required if you want to sync your accounts between your devices.
It may be a wiser choice to use a dedicated app for getting 2FA codes. If you prefer open source alternatives, I can recommend Aegis for Android and Raivo OTP for iOS. Both apps have an option to backup your 2FA accounts, you can save it to your computer or a cloud storage service and use it to import the data again. Bitwarden also supports 2FA codes, but the feature is only available with a premium subscription.
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