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Two factor authentication for Devise


Build Status Code Climate


  • Support for 2 types of OTP codes
    1. Codes delivered directly to the user
    2. TOTP (Google Authenticator) codes based on a shared secret (HMAC)
  • Configurable OTP code digit length
  • Configurable max login attempts
  • Customizable logic to determine if a user needs two factor authentication
  • Configurable period where users won't be asked for 2FA again
  • Option to encrypt the TOTP secret in the database, with iv and salt


Initial Setup

In a Rails environment, require the gem in your Gemfile:

gem 'two_factor_authentication'

Once that's done, run:

bundle install

Note that Ruby 2.1 or greater is required.


Automatic initial setup

To set up the model and database migration file automatically, run the following command:

bundle exec rails g two_factor_authentication MODEL

Where MODEL is your model name (e.g. User or Admin). This generator will add :two_factor_authenticatable to your model's Devise options and create a migration in db/migrate/, which will add the following columns to your table:

  • :second_factor_attempts_count
  • :encrypted_otp_secret_key
  • :encrypted_otp_secret_key_iv
  • :encrypted_otp_secret_key_salt
  • :direct_otp
  • :direct_otp_sent_at
  • :totp_timestamp

Manual initial setup

If you prefer to set up the model and migration manually, add the :two_factor_authenticatable option to your existing devise options, such as:

devise :database_authenticatable, :registerable, :recoverable, :rememberable,
       :trackable, :validatable, :two_factor_authenticatable

Then create your migration file using the Rails generator, such as:

rails g migration AddTwoFactorFieldsToUsers second_factor_attempts_count:integer encrypted_otp_secret_key:string:index encrypted_otp_secret_key_iv:string encrypted_otp_secret_key_salt:string direct_otp:string direct_otp_sent_at:datetime totp_timestamp:timestamp

Open your migration file (it will be in the db/migrate directory and will be named something like 20151230163930_add_two_factor_fields_to_users.rb), and add unique: true to the add_index line so that it looks like this:

add_index :users, :encrypted_otp_secret_key, unique: true

Save the file.

Complete the setup

Run the migration with:

bundle exec rake db:migrate

Add the following line to your model to fully enable two-factor auth:

has_one_time_password(encrypted: true)

Set config values in config/initializers/devise.rb:

config.max_login_attempts = 3  # Maximum second factor attempts count.
config.allowed_otp_drift_seconds = 30  # Allowed TOTP time drift between client and server.
config.otp_length = 6  # TOTP code length
config.direct_otp_valid_for = 5.minutes  # Time before direct OTP becomes invalid
config.direct_otp_length = 6  # Direct OTP code length
config.remember_otp_session_for_seconds = 30.days  # Time before browser has to perform 2fA again. Default is 0.
config.otp_secret_encryption_key = ENV['OTP_SECRET_ENCRYPTION_KEY']
config.second_factor_resource_id = 'id' # Field or method name used to set value for 2fA remember cookie
config.delete_cookie_on_logout = false # Delete cookie when user signs out, to force 2fA again on login

The otp_secret_encryption_key must be a random key that is not stored in the DB, and is not checked in to your repo. It is recommended to store it in an environment variable, and you can generate it with bundle exec rake secret.

Override the method in your model in order to send direct OTP codes. This is automatically called when a user logs in unless they have TOTP enabled (see below):

def send_two_factor_authentication_code(code)
  # Send code via SMS, etc.

Customisation and Usage

By default, second factor authentication is required for each user. You can change that by overriding the following method in your model:

def need_two_factor_authentication?(request)
  request.ip != ''

In the example above, two factor authentication will not be required for local users.

This gem is compatible with Google Authenticator. To enable this a shared secret must be generated by invoking the following method on your model:


This must then be shared via a provisioning uri:

user.provisioning_uri # This assumes a user model with an email attribute

This provisioning uri can then be turned in to a QR code if desired so that users may add the app to Google Authenticator easily. Once this is done, they may retrieve a one-time password directly from the Google Authenticator app.

Overriding the view

The default view that shows the form can be overridden by adding a file named show.html.erb (or show.html.haml if you prefer HAML) inside app/views/devise/two_factor_authentication/ and customizing it. Below is an example using ERB:

<h2>Hi, you received a code by email, please enter it below, thanks!</h2>

<%= form_tag([resource_name, :two_factor_authentication], :method => :put) do %>
  <%= text_field_tag :code %>
  <%= submit_tag "Log in!" %>
<% end %>

<%= link_to "Sign out", destroy_user_session_path, :method => :delete %>

Upgrading from version 1.X to 2.X

The following database fields are new in version 2.

  • direct_otp
  • direct_otp_sent_at
  • totp_timestamp

To add them, generate a migration such as:

$ rails g migration AddTwoFactorFieldsToUsers direct_otp:string direct_otp_sent_at:datetime totp_timestamp:timestamp

The otp_secret_key is only required for users who use TOTP (Google Authenticator) codes, so unless it has been shared with the user it should be set to nil. The following pseudo-code is an example of how this might be done:

User.find_each do |user| do
  if !uses_authenticator_app(user)
    user.otp_secret_key = nil!

Adding the TOTP encryption option to an existing app

If you've already been using this gem, and want to start encrypting the OTP secret key in the database (recommended), you'll need to perform the following steps:

  1. Generate a migration to add the necessary columns to your model's table:

    rails g migration AddEncryptionFieldsToUsers encrypted_otp_secret_key:string:index encrypted_otp_secret_key_iv:string encrypted_otp_secret_key_salt:string

    Open your migration file (it will be in the db/migrate directory and will be named something like 20151230163930_add_encryption_fields_to_users.rb), and add unique: true to the add_index line so that it looks like this:

    add_index :users, :encrypted_otp_secret_key, unique: true

    Save the file.

  2. Run the migration: bundle exec rake db:migrate

  3. Update the gem: bundle update two_factor_authentication

  4. Add encrypted: true to has_one_time_password in your model. For example: has_one_time_password(encrypted: true)

  5. Generate a migration to populate the new encryption fields:

    rails g migration PopulateEncryptedOtpFields

    Open the generated file, and replace its contents with the following:

    class PopulateEncryptedOtpFields < ActiveRecord::Migration
      def up
        User.find_each do |user|
          user.otp_secret_key = user.read_attribute('otp_secret_key')
      def down
        User.find_each do |user|
          user.otp_secret_key = ROTP::Base32.random_base32
  6. Generate a migration to remove the :otp_secret_key column:

    rails g migration RemoveOtpSecretKeyFromUsers otp_secret_key:string
  7. Run the migrations: bundle exec rake db:migrate

If, for some reason, you want to switch back to the old non-encrypted version, use these steps:

  1. Remove (encrypted: true) from has_one_time_password

  2. Roll back the last 3 migrations (assuming you haven't added any new ones after them):

    bundle exec rake db:rollback STEP=3

Critical Security Note! Add before_action to your user registration controllers

You should have a file registrations_controller.rb in your controllers folder to overwrite/customize user registrations. It should include the lines below, for 2FA protection of user model updates, meaning that users can only access the users/edit page after confirming 2FA fully, not simply by logging in. Otherwise the entire 2FA system can be bypassed!

class RegistrationsController < Devise::RegistrationsController
  before_action :confirm_two_factor_authenticated, except: [:new, :create, :cancel]


  def confirm_two_factor_authenticated
    return if is_fully_authenticated?

    flash[:error] = t('devise.errors.messages.user_not_authenticated')
    redirect_to user_two_factor_authentication_url

Critical Security Note! Add 2FA validation to your custom user actions

Make sure you are passing the 2FA secret codes securely and checking for them upon critical user actions, such as API key updates, user email or pgp pubkey updates, or any other changess to private/secure account-related details. Validate the secret during the initial 2FA key/secret verification by the user also, of course.

For example, a simple account_controller.rb may look something like this:

require 'json'

class AccountController < ApplicationController
  before_action :require_signed_in!
  before_action :authenticate_user!
  respond_to :html, :json
  def account_API
    resp = {}
      if(account_params["twoFAKey"] && account_params["twoFASecret"])
        current_user.otp_secret_key = account_params["twoFAKey"]
          # user has validated their temporary 2FA code, save it to their account, enable 2FA on this account
          resp['success'] = "passed 2FA validation!"
          resp['error'] = "failed 2FA validation!"
      elsif(param[:userAccountStuff] && param[:userAccountWidget])
        #before updating important user account stuff and widgets,
        #check to see that the 2FA secret has also been passed in, and verify it...
        if(account_params["twoFASecret"] && current_user.totp_enabled? && current_user.authenticate_totp(account_params["twoFASecret"]))
          # user has passed 2FA checks, do cool user account stuff here
          # user failed 2FA check! No cool user stuff happens!             
           resp[error] = 'You failed 2FA validation!'
        resp['error'] = 'unknown format error, not saved!'  
    rescue Exception => e
      puts "WARNING: account api threw error : '#{e}' for user #{current_user.username}"
      #print "error trace: #{e.backtrace}\n"
      resp['error'] = "unanticipated server response"
    render json: resp.to_json

  def account_params
    params.require(:twoFA).permit(:userAccountStuff, :userAcountWidget, :twoFAKey, :twoFASecret)

Example App


Example user actions

to use an ENV VAR for the 2FA encryption key:

config.otp_secret_encryption_key = ENV['OTP_SECRET_ENCRYPTION_KEY']

to set up TOTP for Google Authenticator for user:

current_user.otp_secret_key =  current_user.generate_totp_secret!

( encrypted db fields are set upon user model save action, rails c access relies on setting env var: OTP_SECRET_ENCRYPTION_KEY )

to check if user has input the correct code (from the QR display page) before saving the user model:


additional note:


This returns the OTP secret key in plaintext for the user (if you have set the env var) in the console the string used for generating the QR given to the user for their Google Auth is something like:

otpauth://totp/LABEL?secret=p6wwetjnkjnrcmpd (example secret used here)

where LABEL should be something like " (Username)", which shows up in their GA app to remind them the code is for

this returns true or false with an allowed_otp_drift_seconds 'grace period'

to set TOTP to DISABLED for a user account:

current_user.otp_secret_key=nil! (if in ruby code instead of console)
current_user.direct_otp? => false
current_user.totp_enabled? => false