Saturday, November 24, 2018

Did you follow Apple's two-factor authentication advice to provide a friend's phone number for SMS authentication?

I bet you didn’t do this [emphases mine]:

…You should also consider verifying an additional phone number you can access, such as a home phone, or a number used by a family member or close friend. You can use this number if you temporarily can’t access your primary number or your own devices….

… To use two-factor authentication, you need at least one trusted phone number on file where you can receive verification codes. Consider verifying an additional trusted phone number other than your own phone number. If your iPhone is your only trusted device and it is missing or damaged, you will be unable to receive verification codes required to access your account…

… If you're signing in and don’t have a trusted device handy that can display verification codes, you can have a code sent to your trusted phone number via text message or an automated phone call instead. Click Didn’t Get a Code on the sign in screen and choose to send a code to your trusted phone number…

Apple 2FA implementation has a high risk of account access loss (Google has better 2FA recovery options). Apple’s recommended mitigation is to use multiple SMS verification numbers, not just the one mandatory number. Since SMS is an essential part of Apple’s 2FA, and SMS is a poor way to do 2FA, Apple’s 2FA is fundamentally insecure (mac bloggers seem universally unaware of this incidentally).

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. On balance, if you use 2FA, you should have at least two SMS numbers numbers associated with your (insecure) Apple ID.

PS. To Apple’s credit, you need both a password and SMS to access your iCloud account, and you can’t reset the password just using SMS. In the absence of a trusted device the password reset process is mysterious and takes a few days.

PPS. You can use a Google Voice number as a trusted number. That way you can use a web browser to retrieve the authentication code.

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