We’ve just rolled out a much requested feature to our control panel: Timed One Time Passwords or TOTP.
TOTP is a type of 2FA. If these acronyms are making sense to you, head over to the control panel and set up TOTP.
If not, read-on…
What is 2FA?
You’ll probably have noticed an increasing number of websites that you use encouraging or requiring you to enable “two factor authentication” or 2FA.
2FA refers to requiring two separate things to confirm your identity: something you know (your password) and something you have (e.g. your phone).
2FA protects against some of the most common ways in which accounts get compromised:
- Username/password re-use. Despite advice not to do so, plenty of people re-use passwords across lots of different sites. Every now and again, sites get compromised, and databases of usernames and passwords become available on the shadier parts of the internet. These credentials will then be tried against other sites, looking for places that they’ve been re-used.
- Email account compromise. If your email account is compromised, it’s very easy for an attacker to gain access to your other accounts, as it’s almost always possible to reset your password by sending an email.
- Key-logging. If your computer is compromised, or you use an untrusted shared computer, key-logging malware may be installed that logs your password as you type it to log into your account.
2FA protects against all of these. It’s no longer sufficient to know the username and password to login, and you can’t reset your password just by having access to the email account. 2FA uses “one time passcodes” which means that whilst they can be captured by a key-logger, they’re of no value as they’ve already been used.
TOTP, SMS and Recovery Codes
We now support three different methods to provide the second factor: SMS, TOTP and recovery codes. With a Timed One Time Password your phone uses a secret key and the current time to generate a unique six digit code. The code is only valid for a short period, and can only be used once. The code proves that you have access to the secret key in the phone, but does not require you to send the secret key or any part of it to us.
With SMS we send you a time-limited, one-time code via a text message. Your phone collects this and you can type it in during login to prove that you’re holding your phone.
Recovery codes are intended to be a fall back should you lose access to your primary 2FA method. These are a set of one time codes that you can store securely (e.g. on paper, in a safe) and use each of them for a single login as required.
TOTP has a number of advantages over SMS. Firstly, it’s entirely offline on your phone so that if you’re somewhere with no phone signal you can still log in. Secondly, it doesn’t rely on trusting the mobile phone network; anyone with access to the phone network could intercept your SMS code or arrange for it to be delivered to another device. Similarly you may have things like message sharing enabled which means that your passcode is delivered to multiple devices.
Setting up TOTP
TOTP is very easy to setup. You’ll need an app on your phone. You can use Google Authenticator, but we prefer the open source FreeOTP. Once installed, go to the two-factor auth page in our control panel and hit the big green “Enable TOTP” button.
You’ll be shown a QR code which you can scan into the app on your phone, and you can then start generating codes. You need to enter a code to confirm that it’s set up correctly, and you can then choose to require 2FA whenever you log into your account.
Whilst you’re there, you should take the chance to print off some recovery codes.