Google Authenticator’s first update in years tweaks how you access security codes

The minor changes are welcome, but other authentication apps have clearly raced ahead

Google has been a huge proponent in popularizing two-factor authentication to make logins more secure, whether you use an alternate device prompt or a hardware key. However, you could say that the company hasn’t exactly been as enthused about its own authenticator app as its last big update came in May 2020. A new update is finally on its way out, and it contains some new, albeit minor features that will layer on extra secrecy when it comes to moving those one-time codes around.

Authenticator 5.20 first started hitting users a couple weeks back, and it wasn’t long before people started noticing one little change: it now obscures every six-digit PIN for the accounts it hosts. Users can tap on an item to reveal the code, then tap again to hide it at their discretion. They can also long-press an obscured code to transfer it to the login in waiting perhaps without even seeing the code in the first place — though, in our testing, the numbers do appear in Android 13’s clipboard overlay.

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The Google Play Store says v5.20 went out on May 23, but it does take time for every user to receive it. You do have the option of sideloading a third-revision beta of v5.20 from APK Mirror — it operates just the same.

Wishing for a more ambitious update? You’re not alone. Reviewers have been asking for features we’ve seen on other apps such as biometric login and better organization for a while now. We hope that the company is keeping an eye on user complaints as it does on our data.

Looking at the bigger picture, Google has been active in protecting vulnerable eastern Europeans from state-sponsored cyber attacks. On the consumer side, the soon-to-arrive passwordless authentication on Google Chrome looks like a step in the right direction as well. But then, you’d have to take these things with a grain of salt as the company continues pressing forward with reinventing the cookie tracker.

Thanks: Johny


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