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Old 09-08-2017, 11:55 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Can someone explain how 2-factor authentication dongles work?

I've had several physical tokens (Gemalto, etc) for jobs now and I get the basic premise but I can't quite seem to wrap my brain around it. I understand that my token displays a personalized permutation of a code that's then verified by the auth server, but how do those two align? I know my token isn't connected to anything, so is every code stored in advance somehow? My brain hurts.
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Old 09-08-2017, 12:05 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It's actually time based. The token and the server use the same algorithm along with the current time to generate the same code. So, the two systems don't actually communicate with each other in any way.
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Old 09-08-2017, 12:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I've always wondered that.... So if the batteries die in the token and the time is lost, it's broken?
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Old 09-08-2017, 12:14 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It's actually time based. The token and the server use the same algorithm along with the current time to generate the same code. So, the two systems don't actually communicate with each other in any way.
Ah, okay. So the two take the current time and apply some black magic to it, which generates the code that gets compared when I log in?
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Old 09-08-2017, 12:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I've always wondered that.... So if the batteries die in the token and the time is lost, it's broken?
These sorts of tokens are usually set to expire after so long. This has a lot to do with the battery issue. This is also why you typically have to send them back when they start to die. Then again, the battery in these devices usually lasts for several years.

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Ah, okay. So the two take the current time and apply some black magic to it, which generates the code that gets compared when I log in?
Bingo
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Old 09-08-2017, 12:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Ah, okay. So the two take the current time and apply some black magic to it, which generates the code that gets compared when I log in?

Without getting too technical. YES
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Old 09-08-2017, 12:36 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Without getting too technical. YES
Yeah, I need the "For Dummies" version, lol. Thanks, folks!
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