My Two Cents on Two Factor

Two-factor authentication should (imho) be in core, but core can’t always provide the best ways to accomplish it, for example, text messaging which requires external APIs.

What I see the best fit being, is this:

There is a framework for Two-Factor Authentication in core, that provides two free no-api-required methods for users to select to validate:

  • Email (with a warning that it’s not as secure)
  • Time-based One-time Password Algorithm (TOTP)
    • This is what Google Authenticator / Authy use.
    • IETF RFC6238

Beyond this, Core would offer a filter to permit plugins to register other authentication methods, for example, Duo Security’s push-based request system, or Jetpack could provide a gateway for text-messages, just as they are sent from WordPress.com.

We would also need to allow a define( 'DISABLE_TWO_FACTOR_AUTH', true ); line in wp-config.php that would switch it off, in case a site owner lost their phone and needed to disable it temporarily.  I could also see use for a customized define to only disable it for a given user.  Ideally this would add a warning to the adminbar for all users that have manage_options() to notify them that it has been disabled.

Other dependencies that would need to be in core:

  • Application Passwords
    • For systems where the user cannot be prompted for a two-factor auth code (XMLRPC, etc), disallow their normal password for authentication, and force them to use a generated application password that is stored in usermeta.
    • For systems where the user can be prompted for a two-factor auth code (wp-login.php) don’t permit the use of application passwords.
  • Backup Auth Codes
    • Saved in usermeta, not terribly much interesting here.

Author: George Stephanis

Cooking, Code, Carpentry, Letterpress.

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