The Best Authenticator Apps for Improving Safety of Your Accounts

Accounts regulate everyone’s digital life: whether they are used for accessing online banking, social media websites, email, or online gaming platforms, login credentials are like virtual houses everyone has in several spaces of the internet. These, just like a real house, are subject to the risk of violation by malicious users seeking money stored at the bank or for personal email: this is the main reason an account should always be protected. Despite some people tend to give more importance to their physical assets (like their house) and extend the same level of care maybe just to the most sensitive accounts like those used for online banking, every digital presence should be adequately protected independently from how much relevant would be an eventual violation for the owner.

Authenticator Apps Help to Protect Personal Accounts

Among the best security tools available to protect accounts from violation, authenticator apps are maybe second only to physical tokens in terms of safety. These apps work with the multi-factor authentication option that most providers of online services are already offering to their users to prompt a temporary disposable PIN code in addition to the username and password. Usually, this additional form of authentication involves sending the quick code to a registered phone number via SMS or phone call. The alternative provided by physical tokens requires these devices to gain access to an account, so it eliminates the need for temporary passwords. In between, authenticator apps are tools that generate OTPs without sending them to a registered phone number.

People should protect their online accounts just like their physical belongings.

Authenticator Apps Are Both Convenient and Safe

Authenticator apps are among the best tools to ensure the safety of digital accounts because of several reasons that make them a convenient choice even over other forms of multi-factor authentication options:

  • They eliminate the risks associated with an eventual violation of personal phone numbers. Despite these kinds of attacks being relatively rare, episodes of SIM swapping are still something that may happen to anyone owning a mobile phone number. It may be as simple as being able to achieve doing social engineering with someone working at a mobile phone carrier, maybe even better in case someone manages to get a copy of our ID (in a period in which everyone can even open bank accounts in minutes just by taking photos to the ID and sending them to someone else, it may be clear that our IDs are not as confidential as one may believe). SIM swapping means someone else manages to get our phone number: one can report the fraud immediately, but still, in the meantime, someone else has unlimited access to temporary codes used to protect personal accounts.
  • In case of phone loss, authenticator apps can be quickly recovered, provided that appropriate backup has been made in advance. This is not the case with physical tokens: keeping more than one is an excellent way to reduce the risk of losing access to the account in case a token stops working or gets lost, still being tied to a physical device instead of an app that can be quickly recovered on a new phone carries still a relative risk of being unable to access personal accounts in case of issues with the physical tokens, and no alternative authentication methods have been previously implemented.
  • Authenticator apps are always ready to generate temporary codes. In case, for some reason, there is no mobile phone signal because of temporary disruption, but there is still access to the internet thanks to WiFi, one does not need to wait until their phone line works again before gaining access to their account.

What Are the Best Popular Authenticator Apps?

There are various choices of OTP generators, and most of them are entirely free to use. Below are three of the best authenticator apps one can choose to protect their accounts against malicious attackers.

Google Authenticator

It is maybe the most popular OTP generator ever. It allows binding personal Google Accounts protected with multi-factor authentication and generates codes for accounts hosted at other providers offering this additional form of protection.

Pros:

  • suitable for people who are comfortable using the Google ecosystem of apps and services;
  • easy to set up;
  • easy to backup and restore;
  • suitable also for people not using a Google Account.

Cons:

  • It does not currently offer a cloud backup option, even if this limitation can be easily bypassed by saving a copy of tokens on the device and uploading it manually to Google Drive.

Google Authenticator app icon on iOS device

Authy

Authy is one of the most popular alternatives to Google Authenticator. It has additional features like desktop support, multi-device capability, and the most important one: integrated cloud backup of tokens. All these features make Authy a perfect choice for people needing advanced features in addition to a simple OTP generator. Still, to use this app, it is required to create an account with our phone number: this means that using Authy may still carry the slight risk of SIM swapping, making it a good app but not certainly an alternative to simply registering a phone number for receiving the codes directly through multi-factor authentication.

Pros:

  • it has advanced features not provided by many of the alternative apps;
  • it has an enjoyable UI.

Cons:

  • It actually requires mobile phone number for signing up.

Microsoft Authenticator

This app not only allows the generation of codes for accounts protected with multi-factor authentication (including Microsoft profiles), but it also acts as a vault for storing passwords and enabling auto-fill whenever attempting to log in somewhere within the mobile browser or an app. This makes Microsoft Authenticator not simply an OTP generator but a complete password management solution with only one aspect to be considered: a Microsoft Account is required for using it, unlike Google Authenticator, which is available even to people not using Google online services.

Pros:

  • it is not only an authenticator app but a complete password management solution;
  • it has a cloud backup feature.

Cons:

  • It requires a Microsoft Account, so it is suitable only for people who are already using Microsoft services or are still interested in signing up for an account with Microsoft, even just for using this app.

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