Google Authenticator is a tool that allows you to easily, securely sign in to several services all across the web and devices. It basically provides a randomly generated code that will be reset every few seconds making sure that no one gets access to any of the accounts secured with Google Authenticator without your smartphone. So, there is no question about the security of this service. What happens if you lost access to your smartphone or you accidentally uninstalled the Authenticator app while cleaning up your device?
It will be a bit hard to get into the Authenticator after that. Especially if you do not have the smartphone with you. You won’t be able to sign into any of the services connected with the Authenticator until you figure something out. In this article, we are going to provide you the steps you can try to get your access back to the Google Authenticator.
If you have a Secret Key Backup
During the 2FA (Two-factor authentication) setup, the Google Authenticator or the service you are activating the Authenticator for will provide you a secret key/QR code to recover your account in case you lose/damage your device. It is extremely important to save this key somewhere safe. If you do not have this key, it is very hard to restore Google Authenticator.
In case you happened to have this secret key backup with you, you can restore Google Authenticator by following these steps.
- Install the Authenticator app again.
- Open the app.
- Click on the “+” icon to add a new key.
- Now choose the Enter a Setup Key option.
- Fill the sections with the Setup Key you have.
- Click on the Add button.
If you entered it correctly, the Authenticator app will start showing the codes once again. You can try using it to sign in to the service with 2FA.
If you do not have a Secret Key Backup
Without the backup, it is quite difficult to get access to the 2FA enabled services. Due to security reasons, Google is extremely strict about this. They do not sync the Authenticator details with your Google account like many of their other services. We are not sure why they are not allowing users to recover keys in such scenarios which can happen once in a while. But currently, there isn’t a way someone can restore the access without a QR code or secret key.
You will probably have to contact the customer care support of each service you enabled the Google Authenticator for and prove your identity. As long as you are able to provide the required information they ask for, you won’t face any issues. Your accounts will be restored by removing the active 2FA from them. You might have to spend a little time on that emailing the support or chatting with them.
Next time you Use an Authenticator App
So, here is a very important piece of advice from us. If you plan to use an Authenticator app of any kind, including Google Authenticator, be sure to take a backup of the recovery keys they provide. Store it in a safe location that you can access in case you run into issues like this. It is better to not store them on your computer or cloud services. Instead, take a note somewhere safe. That way, even though the device gets into issues, you can always regain your Authenticator access.
There are also alternative Authentication apps available that stores your information and allows you to switch devices easily. So, you may also go with them if you have a lot of services connected with the 2FA app like this.
According to us, it is also a good idea to not go for locking your services with an Authenticator app. They provide extreme security, that’s a fact. However, once you have to deal with such an issue, it is very hard to get your account back. Instead, you can use 2FA using SMS or email services that also provide a good amount of security and prevents any unauthorized access even though they have the password of your accounts.
As the security services are evolving and the features of these Authenticators being enhanced, let’s hope that there will be a way that syncs your Authenticator data with your Google account for recovery.