XF 1.5 Two-Step Verification and Security Improvements

Account security has become a hot topic recently. There are seemingly endless stories about password databases from popular sites being leaked. Because password reuse is common, we've started to see brute force login attempts using these leaked passwords. Maintaining account security has become a big priority. To help this, we've added a few new features.

Two-Step Verification

Two-step verification, also known as two-factor authentication, requires you to provide two pieces of information to login. The general form is expressed as "something you know and something you have". "Something you know" is your password. "Something you have" is the new part. You may have seen this with other services, such as Google accounts. If you're familiar with that, you'll understand how it works in XenForo.

Two-step verification is something a user has to opt into sometime after they have registered. Enabling it increases security at the expense of a more complex login procedure. For many users--particularly ones that just lurk or only have a few posts--the "value" of their account is low so the cost may outweigh the benefit. However, for privileged users, the extra security should be worthwhile.

When you've enabled two-step verification, you will login with your username or email and password as normal. Once those are verified, we will determine if two step verification is needed. If so, you'll need to take the appropriate steps to complete that. Upon receiving that verification, you'll be logged in as normal.

Let's look at how each step works in more detail...

Two-Step Verification: Setup


To enable, you enter the two-step verification page from the account section. Note that you'll need to confirm your password before you can do any manipulation to the two-step verification settings.

To enable, you simply pick the method of verification you want to use. XenForo ships with two "primary" verification methods:
  • Verification code via app - this will use an app on your phone (such as Google Authenticator or Authy) to generate a 6 digit code. This code changes every 30 seconds.
  • Email confirmation - this will send a unique, one-time-use code to the email address associated with your account. This method is not preferred over the app-based verification because if an attacker has access to your account, they may also have access to your email. However, it's certainly better than nothing.
To enable any method, you will need to go through the verification process to ensure that everything works as expected. This prevents you from being locked out by a system you didn't successfully complete once.

You can enable multiple two-step verification methods.

The two-step verification "provider" system can be extended by third-party developers to add different methods (for example, YubiKey support, phone/text-based verification, etc).

There is also a third method that is automatically enabled when the first two-step verification provider is enabled: backup codes. These are designed to be saved for emergencies when you can't verify your login through any other method (if you don't have your phone, for example). Each backup code can be used once and you will be sent an email whenever a backup code has been used.

Two-Step Verification: Login

If you have enabled two-step verification, this covers logging in via the admin control panel and the public-facing login.


After verifying your password, if two-step verification is required, you'll be taken to a page such as the one shown above. By default, the highest priority, currently enabled two-step verification method will be triggered. (The priority is set by the developer.) If you wish to use an alternative method, you can choose to do so for this login.

This also gives you the option to trust this device for 30 days. You may be familiar with this approach with other two-step verification systems. If you trust this device, you can log out and log in without being prompted to complete two-step verification for 30 days. This helps to mitigate the annoyance that two-step verification can create.

Once the 30 days are up, you will be prompted to complete the two-step verification again (even if you have chosen to stay logged in).

In the event that you want to stop trusting a device or you need to revoke that trust for other devices, you can do this from the two-step verification setup page in the account system:


Two-Step Verification: Losing Access

A common concern with two-step verification is what happens if you lose access to all of your two-step verification methods. We have attempted to mitigate that as much as possible.
  • Backup codes are really generated for this exact situation. If you lose your phone or your email is no longer valid, the backup codes will still work. However, this does require saving them once they're generated. This is something that not all users will do.
  • Disabling two-step verification only requires access to the password when you're already logged in. If users choose to trust a device, this very likely means that they will still have access to their account. Once they verify their password, they'll be able to change their two-step verification settings as necessary.
  • Finally, admins can see the current two-step verification status and disable it if necessary:

Password and Email Change Notifications

Beyond two-step verification, we have also made several other small account security-related improvements.

Now, if your password is changed, you will receive an email to make you aware of this. Normally you can disregard this, but it serves to help notify you if someone is accessing your account and attempting to block your access to it.

Similarly, if your registered email is changed, you'll receive an email (to the previous address) to make you aware of this.

Password Reset Process Changed

The password reset process has been simplified to be more user friendly and not send a password via email. Once you receive the email for the password reset request, the link will allow you to set a new password directly. This is more in line with current approaches to password resetting.

That's all for today, but there's still more up our sleeves...

Just a reminder: Please do not post suggestions in this thread (even if you feel they are related). Use the dedicated suggestion forum so they can be tracked.
Just to clarify, will two-step be selectable by each user, and will it depend on user group? I would like to have all staff use it but it might not be something I offer to all members at first.
There is not currently a way to force it on particular users. It's under consideration.

There are no user group controls over who can enable two-step. Personally, I don't see a benefit in limiting who can use it given that it's an explicitly opt-in procedure. IMO, it should be a user's choice to add more security to their account.
I'm not sure if I'd be actually enabling two factor authentication on my site; but having it as an option is GREAT!

PS: Make HYS videos, guys! :)
maybe administratos will be force but not users, because they can customize their options that they want.

we expect the demo soon!
Currently we use a system like this which provides a trophy for anyone who uses it (I know it might not be seen as something needed but users requested it) but does this also provide such option or would we need to add user criteria in to do this?

Not sure I saw anything above about it.
Really, your users should decide whether they want to enable 2FA or not. Not the other way around. As Mike says, there's no option to prevent users from enabling it. This is a technology you should be promoting to your users, even if it's not one you fully understand or appreciate yourself.
Is it possible to force the use of two-step verification for certain users/groups? Obvious scenario being anyone promoted to a staff position needing to secure their account more than the average user.

Will two-step be selectable by each user, and will it depend on user group? I would like to have all staff use it but it might not be something I offer to all members at first.

Also wanting to know about these.

Password and Email Change Notifications
Will these bypass user privacy settings for 'Receive site mailings'? Being such important emails, I hope so.
Also wanting to know about these.
There are no user group permissions. Users will use it or not. The only thing we might consider, is forcing for certain usergroups, but at the same time we're not convinced that as a concept is workable.

Will these bypass user privacy settings for 'Receive site mailings'? Being such important emails, I hope so.
Of course...
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