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User Guide: Multi-Factor Authentication
Phabricator User Documentation (Application User Guides)

Explains how multi-factor authentication works in Phabricator.


Multi-factor authentication allows you to add additional credentials to your account to make it more secure.

This sounds complicated, but in most cases it just means that Phabricator will make sure you have your mobile phone (by sending you a text message or having you enter a code from a mobile application) before allowing you to log in or take certain "high security" actions (like changing your password).

Requiring you to prove you're really you by asking for something you know (your password) and something you have (your mobile phone) makes it much harder for attackers to access your account. The phone is an additional "factor" which protects your account from attacks.

Requiring re-authentication before performing high security actions further limits the damage an attacker can do even if they manage to compromise a login session.

How Multi-Factor Authentication Works

If you've configured multi-factor authentication and try to log in to your account or take certain high security actions (like changing your password), you'll be stopped and asked to enter additional credentials.

Usually, this means you'll receive an SMS with a security code on your phone, or you'll open an app on your phone which will show you a security code. In both cases, you'll enter the security code into Phabricator.

If you're logging in, Phabricator will log you in after you enter the code.

If you're taking a high security action, Phabricator will put your account in "high security" mode for a few minutes. In this mode, you can take high security actions like changing passwords or SSH keys freely without entering any more credentials. You can explicitly leave high security once you're done performing account management, or your account will naturally return to normal security after a short period of time.

While your account is in high security, you'll see a notification on screen with instructions for returning to normal security.

Configuring Multi-Factor Authentication

To manage authentication factors for your account, go to Settings > Multi-Factor Auth. You can use this control panel to add or remove authentication factors from your account.

You can also rename a factor by clicking the name. This can help you identify factors if you have several similar factors attached to your account.

For a description of the available factors, see the next few sections.

Factor: Mobile Phone App (TOTP)

TOTP stands for "Time-based One-Time Password". This factor operates by having you enter security codes from your mobile phone into Phabricator. The codes change every 30 seconds, so you will need to have your phone with you in order to enter them.

To use this factor, you'll download an application onto your smartphone which can compute these codes. Two applications which work well are Authy and Google Authenticator. These applications are free, and you can find and download them from the appropriate store on your device.

Your company may have a preferred application, or may use some other application, so check any in-house documentation for details. In general, any TOTP application should work properly.

After you've downloaded the application onto your phone, use the Phabricator settings panel to add a factor to your account. You'll be prompted to enter a master key into your phone, and then read a security code from your phone and type it into Phabricator.

Later, when you need to authenticate, you'll follow this same process: launch the application, read the security code, and type it into Phabricator. This will prove you have your phone.

Don't lose your phone! You'll need it to log into Phabricator in the future.

Recovering from Lost Factors

If you've lost a factor associated with your account (for example, your phone has been lost or damaged), an administrator can strip the factor off your account so that you can log in without it.

IMPORTANT: Before stripping factors from a user account, be absolutely certain that the user is who they claim to be!

It is important to verify the user is who they claim they are before stripping factors because an attacker might pretend to be a user who has lost their phone in order to bypass multi-factor authentication. It is much easier for a typical attacker to spoof an email with a sad story in it than it is for a typical attacker to gain access to a mobile phone.

A good way to verify user identity is to meet them in person and have them solemnly swear an oath that they lost their phone and are very sorry and definitely won't do it again. You can also work out a secret handshake in advance and require them to perform it. But no matter what you do, be certain the user (not an attacker pretending to be the user) is really the one making the request before stripping factors.

After verifying identity, administrators can strip authentication factors from user accounts using the bin/auth strip command. For example, to strip all factors from the account of a user who has lost their phone, run this command:

# Strip all factors from a given user account.
phabricator/ $ ./bin/auth strip --user <username> --all-types

You can run bin/auth help strip for more detail and all available flags and arguments.

This command can selectively strip types of factors. You can use bin/auth list-factors for a list of available factor types.

# Show supported factor types.
phabricator/ $ ./bin/auth list-factors