That we need to protect ourselves online is a given. Not just our identities, but also the logins to the various sites and services that we use daily.
In just about all of the advice that you’ll read out there, there’s always a recommendation to enable multi-factor authentication (also called two-factor authentication) in whatever you use online to an extra layer of security. Multi-factor authentication (MFA for short) might not be an unscalable wall, but it is an obstacle in the way of someone trying to scam, rob, or impersonate you.
While there are more than a few MFA apps for smartphones, those kinds of tools are sometimes ignored or overlooked on the desktop. But not this time!
Let’s take a quick look at three MFA applications for the Linux desktop. They’re simple, effective, and open source.
If you’re interested in learning how MFA works, read this explanation.
Mauborgne is coded for elementary OS (but you can also install it via FlatPak). Just so you know, if you install it from the elementary AppCenter, Mauborgne is a pay what you can application. You’re not expected or obliged to fork over some cash, but please do if you continue to use it.
Mauborgne is basic but it does the job. When you first start it, you need need to add one or more accounts (called one time pads in the application), as shown below:
You can do that by:
- Taking a screenshot of a QR code,
- Importing logins from a popular mobile MFA app called Aegis, or
- Using a QR code image you download.
Once you add or import the account, it appears in the left pane of Marbourgne’s window, as shown below:
To add new accounts, click Add One Time Pad at bottom of the application’s left pane, choose one of the options, and go from there.
Quick and easy, isn’t it?
Next up, Authenticator. While it packs a few more features than Mauborgne, Authenticator is still a snappy application.
To add an account to Authenticator, click the + icon on the toolbar to display the Add a New Account screen, as shown below:
From there, click the Scan QR Code icon in the top-right corner of the title bar (beside the Add button). Choose either Camera or Screenshot to grab the QR code and then click Add.
You can also go into the application’s settings and import a backup from one of one of six sources, including the Aegis mobile app and from Bitwarden.
Here’s what Authenticator looks like with a few accounts added:
The account’s one-time authentication code appears on the right side.
As I mentioned earlier, Authenticator has a few other options. Those include 10 being able to secure the application with a password , and 2) a long list of account providers that can help automate the addition of new accounts. I didn’t try the latter, so I can’t tell how helpful that feature actually is.
Of the three applications I look at in this post, OTPClient isn’t the prettiest. But it makes up for that with some useful features.
Add an account by clicking the + icon on the toolbar and selecting either Scan using webcam or Using a QR code, as shown below:
You can also add an account manually (which I didn’t try) or you can click the Settings icon on the right of the toolbar and import account from one of four other authenticator apps including andOTP, FreeOTP+, and Aegis.
Once you’ve added or imported accounts, those accounts display as shown below:
Click an account to display the one-time code. OTP client also copies the code to your clipboard.
You can also create multiple account databases — for example, one for work, one for financial sites, one for personal sites — and both apply passwords to them and easily switch between those databases as you need to.
The three MFA applications that I just looked at aren’t the only ones available for the Linux desktop. They are, however, easy to use and they get the job done. What more do you need?