How Does Google Authenticator Compare with YubiKey?

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A decade of drastic increase in cybercrime has the cybersecurity industry working hard to offer an ideal counterweapon. A simple Google search on cybersecurity brings up page after page of potential solutions. You’ll want to make your accounts as secure as possible. Google Authenticator and YubiKey are both popular security options for 2-factor authentication. So, which of the two do you opt for? How does Google Authenticator compare with YubiKey?

What are they?

Both of these platforms enable you to leverage multi-factor authentication technology. MFA significantly enhances the security of your accounts by requiring additional verification of your credentials beyond your password.

Google Authenticator is a free app that you can download for both iOS and Android from their respective app stores.

YubiKey is a physical device that you can plug into your computer or use with NFC-enabled devices. An added convenience: You don’t need to type in anything; you just press a button on the physical key and you’re done.

Code generation

These two platforms differ in the way they handle the secret keys used to generate time-based OTP (one-time password) codes. Google Authenticator stores the secret keys on your device and generates the necessary codes every time you open the app.

In contrast, YubiKey reads the secret keys from the physical key itself and then displays the codes in the app. Many users likely prefer the YubiKey model because, without the presence of the physical key, it’s just about impossible to generate codes.

Main differences

Here are more major differences between these two applications:

  • Both provide the software at no cost; but for the Yubico Authenticator, you’ll need to buy the physical YubiKey device to generate OTP codes.
  • Google Authenticator only provides cross-platform coverage on Android and iOS, whereas Yubico Authenticator includes coverage for those platforms and also Windows and macOS.
  • There are more websites that support Google Authenticator than support YubiKey. But some websites don’t even support Google Authenticator, and you are limited to text message MFA, or no MFA at all.
  • One similarity: The standard algorithms for both are TOTP (time-based one-time password) and HOTP (event-based one-time password).


For those who would like to consider an alternative to Google Authenticator’s basic MFA, Authy may be the solution. Authy secures your accounts through the use of multi-factor authentication, but also provides additional features like TouchID, encrypted backups, the ability to sync across multiple devices, and a simple setup process. Furthermore, it comes with a great interface for an excellent user experience.

Seeking security

Ultimately, the choice of apps comes down to personal preference. In this blog we’ve offered a comparison you can consider before making a choice. And whichever app you chose to thwart hackers, we encourage you to also sign up with a good quality proxy service to keep your data private and secure. For individuals and businesses, cybersecurity needs to be a top priority.