Google is serious about the security of your Google accounts be it Gmail, Youtube, Google Plus or dozens of other services offered by the Internet giant. They have been offering and recommending the two-step verification for signing in to your Google accounts which requires both the traditional username and password as well as a code sent to your registered mobile phone. Recently that have also added the use of U2F security keys which must be plugged into your computer for the signing in process to complete. But very few people know about a third powerful 2-step verification method that Google is offering – the Google Authenticator app for your smartphone. Using this app you can generate the time dependent security codes on your smartphone which can be used for two-factor signing in process to complete instead of receiving a security code through SMS (text message) on your phone.
If you do not have a smartphone, then perhaps the regular two-step security is the only option for you. But if you have a smartphone, then you can enable and use the Google Authenticator app using the following simple instructions:
- You should have enabled 2-step verification in your Google account before you proceed. You can learn how to enable 2-step verification in Google from here : http://www.trishtech.com/2013/03/enable-2-step-verification-in-google-accounts-for-extra-security/.
- Sign-in to your Google account on your desktop computer and visit the security settings section (https://www.google.com/settings/security). Then click on the Setup shown next to the 2-step Verification.
- On the 2-step verification page, select the Verification Codes tab if not already selected. This will show you the mobile number you have registered to be used for the 2-step verification. You have to click on the Switch to app button shown for the Google Authenticator app box.
- A small popup will show up allowing you to pick your smartphone type – Android, iPhone or Windows phone. The procedure for all of these phone types is pretty much the same except that the link to download the mobile app is different.
- Depending on the phone type you choose, the next screen will show the instructions to download and install the Google Authenticator app. It will also show a QR code that must be scanned using this app on your smartphone before the app can be used.
- Download the Google Authenticator app on your smartphone and install it. Then touch Begin Setup, select Scan a barcode and scan the QR code shown on your computer screen. On successful scanning, it will save the google account on your smartphone and generate a 6-digit code. This code should be entered on your computer screen to complete the process. You can add as many Google accounts in the same app as you want – different security codes are generated for each of them.
- After this whenever you try to sign-in to your Google account, the two factor verification will ask you for the code generated in your mobile app. You can launch the Google Authenticator app and quickly enter the code into your computer for signing in. For the sake of compatibility and preventing the account lockouts, you can still use the SMS code method if the Google Authenticator codes are not working for some reason.
Conclusion: Installing and using the Google Authenticator app on your smartphone is very easy. It boosts the Google accounts security manifolds as the codes are generated in real time, are valid only a few seconds and can be used for the two-step verification signing in for your Google accounts.