The news has just broken that Google’s Authenticator App can have its codes stolen by malware. I doubt Google will ever release a fix for this issue – their 2FA app hasn’t been updated since September 2017.
For two-and-a-half years, Google hasn’t touched their 2FA app’s code. Perhaps it is perfect? Perhaps there are no more UI improvements or security enhancements that can be done? Or, more likely, it joins a long graveyard of Android apps – launched optimistically and then abandoned.
I get it, not every product you release is a winner. And some have to be shuttered gracefully. But Google Authenticator is special. It is trusted to protect users’ accounts. Not just Google accounts – thousands of providers specifically recommend it.
.@Xero Thoughts please, as I think the only 2FA offered is Google Authenticator for your service? Should customers be concerned? What do you suggest to ensure customer and account security until this is fixed? https://t.co/pArKEr9z7E
— Kathryn Corrick (@kcorrick) February 27, 2020
Sure, you and I know that any OTP app will work. But Google spend a lot of money on branding – and organisations use that to signal trust to their users.
Frankly, Android Authenticator is too important to be neglected like this.
The Authenticator app is open source. But comes with this delightful disclaimer:
While this fork is open source, the official version of the app still remains proprietary. There is no guarantee that the open source repository will receive any changes made upstream (or vice versa).
Despite multiple bugs being filed, no one is fixing them. Occasionally users are told that an internal Google ticket has been raised – and then silence.
It’s OK to stop developing software. It’s OK to decide that your limited resources are best spent elsewhere.
It’s not OK to heavily promote an open security standard, convince people to rely on your proprietary app, and then abandon it.
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Here’s a quick look through all of Google LLC’s currently published Android Apps. I’ve highlighted any which haven’t been updated in over 12 months. That seems like an appropriate cut off for abandonment.
|Cardboard Design Lab||2015-05-29|
|Wear OS Phone||2018-05-14|
|Google Korean Input||2018-06-25|
|Google Spotlight Stories||2018-11-13|
|Pinyin (Chinese) Keyboard||2018-12-12|
I’m sure there are some I’ve missed – and there are loads more which are coming up for their one-year anniversary.