Android for the Windows Guy: Using Google Authenticator

Android for the Windows Guy: Using Google Authenticator

Job one: Get secure

With Android establishing itself as the Windows of the smart phone world, many SuperSite readers are using Windows PCs at home and work and Android devices on the go. Here's one way you can help manage your transitions between these two worlds: By using the Google Authenticator app on your Android handset or tablet.

As with the Microsoft Authenticator app on Windows Phone, Google Authenticator is used to supply the second bit of information—the first being your password—when you enable two-step authentication on an account. I use two-step authentication on my Microsoft accounts and my Google account, as well as a few others, and because they all use the same underlying security technology, you can use a single app to supply codes to multiple accounts.

As a refresher, Microsoft added two-step authentication to its Microsoft account last year, and I wrote about how you could use this security feature to protect your account in Enable and Use Two-Step Authentication with Your Microsoft Account. But last month, I finally took the additional step of configuring the Microsoft Authenticator app on Windows Phone to work with multiple accounts, in my case Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and LastPass accounts. I wrote about that functionality in Tip: Use Microsoft's Authenticator App to Protect Multiple Accounts.

With the Google Nexus 5 here—see Google Nexus 5: First Impressions and Photos for more—I decided that I needed to use this device as my full-time smart phone for now in order to fully test it. (I didn't bother doing this with the iPhone 5S, which I also own, which should tell you a lot about how I feel about these specific devices and platforms.) And that means moving the SIM for my primary phone number to the Nexus 5 and installing and configuring all the apps I use regularly.

I'll be writing about some of these apps more in the days and weeks ahead. Today, however, let's look at one of the more important apps: Google Authenticator.

You can grab Google Authenticator from the Google Play Store, as expected. And it works as expected, too, especially if you've already use the Microsoft Authenticator app on Windows Phone. The Google one is nicely set up to grab your Google account, so you can do that right from the phone. But subsequent accounts—Microsoft account, Dropbox, whatever—will require you to go into the web-based interface for that account—it's easier on the PC, in my experience—remove the original authenticator app if configured (in my case, on Windows Phone) and then add the new account(s) using a barcode scanner.

It's actually a pretty painless process, and I was able to step through each of my two-factor authentication-protected accounts and get them switched over in just several minutes or so. But if you've never used this technology to protect your online accounts, I can say that doing so is as easy on Android as it is on Windows Phone. And if this is the type of smart phone you use, you should get this set up as quickly as possible.

Not sold on two-step authentication? Check out this video.

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