Authentication Protocols

What Is Universal TOTP Authenticator and How Does It Work?

Secure authentications are necessary as, according to Deloitte, more than 90% of user-generated passwords will be vulnerable to hacking.

Passwords alone are too vulnerable to phishing and other credential attacks. Malware designed to steal your credentials from your browser is all too common, e.g. Jupyter Infostealer ( Because of this, an additional layer of secure protection is needed

Universal TOTP Authenticator is one of the most common was to add this additional layer of security. And this article aims to explore the following:

  • What’s TOTP Auth
  • What’s Universal TOTP Authenticator
  • How it works
  • Its advantages
  • Security concerns & risks linked to it   

What’s TOTP Auth

Time-Based One-Time Password or TOTP Auth allows you to protect your apps and websites by adding the 2FA (two-factor authentication) layer. To log in, your website will require customers to enter a time-based code to verify their identity after entering their passwords. The TOTP code is generated by a TOTP authenticator that the user has previously registered with the website.


TOTP Auth generates codes using time and a shared token or secret key. And it’s an approved standard of the IETF.

On the other hand, OTP authentication is an earlier mechanism for adding a 2nd factor, but its implementation was based on a counter and a secret key, rather than being time-based. And it includes the following three standards:

  • RFC 1760 – S/KEY One-Time Password System
  • RFC 2289 – One-Time Password System
  • RFC 4226 – HMAC-Based One-Time Password Algorithm

What’s Universal TOTP Authenticator

TOTP stands for Time-Based One-Time Password. 

A Universal TOTP Authenticator is an app that generates regularly changing passwords. It does that by using an algorithm that contains the secret key shared with the authentication server (more on the key later on) and the current time.

A TOTP generator can easily get linked to any service that supports TOTP authentication. And commonly, they are used for two-factor authentication – also known as 2FA or MFA.

TOTP Authenticators generates a new code after every 30 second interval. This means a user has a limited time to use the code before it expires forever.

RSA Security was the master-minds behind the TOTP authentication. But after the patent expired, OATH standardized the service. And now, it’s marketed by multiple certified authentication vendors.

How Does Universal TOTP Authenticator Work

Here’s how a typical universal TOTP Authenticator works:

  • Install the authenticator app. 
  • Set up TOTP on a supported service to generate a secret key. 
  • Save the key to the phone by scanning the QR code or manually typing in the long code via the app.
  • Now, the service and the authenticator have a copy of the secret key.
  • The app will combine the secret key and the current time to produce time-bound access codes.
  • When a user is required to enter the code, they’ll have to copy/paste it using the app on the service’s 2FA/MFA screen to prove their identity.

Advantages of Universal TOTP

No Additional Hardware Required

As an organization, you don’t need any sort of additional hardware to implement TOTP across your websites and apps. Your customers just need an authentication app to access the service – and they are mostly free of charge. These applications can run on mobile devices, laptops and workstations.

Super Secure

As the TOTP is always changing, there’s absolutely no way for an attacker to guess it.


As TOTP just requires a simple & straightforward integration via the right provider like Vault Vision, scaling it across your business isn’t a problem. From applications to servers and networks, it can be implemented across the board. 

Cost Effective

Universal TOTP only depends on free-to-use authenticator apps, eliminating the need for expensive hardware tokens. Moreover, it’s also cheaper than SMS-based authentication, which requires a mobile network to send texts.   

Mobile Access

TOTP is ideal for your customers who are always on the go. As most authentication apps are mobile-based, they can easily authenticate to your service via TOTP with their mobile phones, laptops or multiple workstations.

Universal TOTP Security Concerns & Risks

Vulnerable to Phishing

TOTP doesn’t completely protect against phishing attacks. A bad actor may mimic the login screens of your site and trick your customers into entering their TOTP codes along with their password.

Requires User’s Device

Your customer can’t enter the TOTP code if they don’t have access to their mobile and the authenticator app. That means they won’t have access to your service.

Other security concerns & risks regarding TOTP are:

  • Possibility of malware attacks
  • Compatibility issues   
  • Fast expiration
  • Secret key compromise

However, with proper measures, the above concerns can easily be mitigated.

Setting Up TOTP Authenticator with Vault Vision

At Vault Vision, we provide Time-Based One-Time Password Auth for websites and apps. Thanks to our no-code support, the process is easy, fast, and secure.

You can easily deploy TOTP Auth on platforms & frameworks like:

  • React
  • Node JS
  • Webflow
  • Python
  • Go
  • Bubble
  • Next
  • Vue
  • Stripe
  • Airtable
  • Zapier
  • And more

We also offer the following:

  • Data Breach Prevention
  • XSS & CSRF Prevention
  • Password Spray Mitigation
  • Email Phishing Resistance
  • Brute Force Attack Prevention
  • Strict Content Security Policy

To integrate the TOTP Auth service on your business site/app, you can use our copy & paste code, preconfigured setups, or starter kits.  

Final Words

Universal TOTP Authenticators are used widely to take advantage of the TOTP Auth implemented by companies worldwide. Your company can also integrate the service and help customers stay secure by using our Vault Vision platform.

For just $25 per month, our Professional Plan provides unlimited logins, a user management dashboard, a developer sandbox, and more. Start a free trial today and see how TOTP Auth is a total game changer.

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