[Google Authenticator] Account and Key plaintexts stored in a file

[Google Authenticator] Account and Key plaintexts are stored in a file (May 22, 2012)

I found out a security issue at the Google authenticator in May, 2012. I sent a paper about the details of issue to Google security team, but, I didn’t get a response from them. The authenticator was applied upgrade last year, however, I have no idea whether or not the issue was changed. Anyway I post it before dumping it a behind of memory.

Google provides the 2-step verification to make their service more secure. A user can install and use the Google’s OTP(One Time Passwords) app on their Smartphone. But, I have analyzed a authenticator on Android, I figure out a security issue that can be used to make a clone authenticator on another Smartphone.

When a user try to register their Smartphone to use the authenticator, a user have to input their account and, key or scan QR code. And then, the authenticator it starting to create one time password. Now a user can authenticate with Google services through a one time credential.


< Add account >

The authenticator provides two selections to be initialized, ‘Scan bar-code’ and ‘Manually add account’. But if you choose anything, account and key are stored in a file. But the problem is that the user account and key are stored in a file as a plaintext

Stored file is sqlite and the file path is


As you can see the below, the email  field is a user account and the secret field is a key for the authenticator. The secret are looks encrypted, but it’s not a matter to make a clone authenticator.


< An example of stored key and secret >

If the file is copied or secrets and keys are duplicated into the another Smartphone’ authenticator, now we have a clone authenticator. The duplicated authenticators are creating a same one time password at the same time, and it can be used to authenticate the Google’s services.

I checked that the authenticator is verifying the device with phone number, Serial or IMEI, but device verification were not applied and it’s not affected the authenticator.


< The clone OTP >

The suggestions for this issue

  1. Encrypt account and key files
  2. Verify a device when the app executed to check it is a valid device or not or include a device serial into the one time password creation process
  3. Using more secure space like SIM, Turst Zone to prevent from the malicious access(In Korea, OTP apps for banks and financial sector are stored and executed in the SIM card)