OTP Meaning: Everything You Need To Know About One-Time Passwords And Security5 min. read
What does an OTP mean? How does it help you secure your account? You might be the next victim so make sure you pay close attention to these details.
Just a few weeks ago, horror stories circulated about scammers trying—and in some cases even succeeding—on stealing money from people. Although it may seem like a mere variation of a phishing scam, this involves a bit more sophistication.
Based on several accounts, a text message from a masked sender ID will inform them about an unauthorized transaction using their account. The sender, which uses customized sender ID that mimics the ones used by bank, will give them a link to a phishing copy of a bank’s website.
Aside from asking for your username and password, the trick also involves asking for your one-time password (OTP). This will give them the final key they need to get a hold of your account and drain your money.
In another variation of the scam, a text message will warn you that your account has been suspended “due to suspicious activity.” To prove your identity, they will ask you for the OTP either sent through text or generated by your app. Once provided, the scammers will use it to gain access to your account.
In both cases, criminals are becoming savvier with the security measures employed by banks, specifically, the use of OTP.
If you want to protect your hard-earned money from these digital thieves, read more about the meaning of OTP, how it works, how you can use it to beef up your security, and why you should never share it with anyone.
What is an OTP?
OTP means “one-time password.” A one-time password (or one-time PIN in some cases) is a type of security credential that is only valid for a certain transaction and cannot be used again.
Usually, your platform automatically generates one whenever you need to log in and you have to enter it before getting full access to your account.
Unlike your usual static passwords that remains the same until you voluntarily change them, OTPs change over time.
Either the said authentication remains usable for a short period of time (e.g. 60 seconds before they rotate the OTP) or they send you one that becomes unusable for good after using it.
In theory, multi-factor authentication methods like OTPs make your accounts more secure by allowing you to confirm your identity using two things: What you know (standard password and PIN) and what you have (a smartphone, an access to your email address, an authenticator app or OTP generator).
In other cases, there even are additional passwords require you to print them on paper and carry them around with you wherever you go.
For consumer-level security, OTPs are generated through the following means: via text message, your banking app generating its own set of numbers, third-party authenticating apps (if supported), phyiscal security tokens.
With people becoming increasingly hyperconnected, the risks of getting victimized by online thieves are increasing. Therefore, enabling your two-factor authentication is a necessity these days. This makes it difficult for thieves to gain access to your account via phishing, keylogging, man-in-the-middle attacks, and others.
Should you share your one-time password with anyone?
The short answer is “no.” However, you need to know the true meaning of an OTP and stick around to learn why.
The logic behind OTPs is that it answers this question: Are you indeed the account holder?
Since static passwords can be easily obtained nowadays regardless of how strong your character combination is, the need for extra layers of security arises.
Even sensitive information such as birthday, mother’s maiden name, and city where you grew up—can now mined by criminals if they even just put a little effort.
An OTP enables a more secure way for you to protect your account that makes any knowledge illegally obtained to you by thieves virtually useless. Without this ever-changing set of numbers, they will not be able to get access to your account and siphon all your funds.
Right now, almost all websites give you the option of using OTP to verify your identity. For banks, they either allow you to use OTP via their app or send you a text message with your most recent PIN.
Since an OTP verifies your identity coupled with a revolving set of passwords, it is highly important to never share this with any party. Giving other people or entities access to your OTP defeats the entire purpose of it.
Keep in mind that not even banks will ask your passwords since there’s no reason for them to do so; after all, they already have access to your account!
How do you secure your OTP?
One recent case of banking scam that tricked the person into giving their OTP involved two steps: Forcing the user to log in to a bogus site, which was followed by a call from a criminal posing as a bank agent.
Since they already had access to the user’s login details, all they needed to do was just convince them to surrender their OTP.
With the call serving as the final trick in the scam, it is important for the tricksters to make sure to use their persuasiveness to make the victim give up their OTP.
According to them, it would be used to verify if they wanted to cancel the supposedly fraudulent scam. Once provided, they would use it to finally gain access to the victim’s account and transfer money to them.
However, no sane banking representative will ask for your OTP. The security feature is for your eyes online.
To avoid criminals from using your one-time password against you, follow these rules and make sure that you take these tips to heart:
- If you haven’t enabled your OTP yet, turn it on first! You’re missing out on extra security features that can deter criminals from accessing your account.
- Never give anyone access to your OTP or any of the platforms that generate it. This means that your email addresses, smartphones, and other security tokens are yours alone. This is the most important takeaway from this article.
- When you receive a message saying that your account has been accessed by criminals, contact your bank immediately through their official channels.
- Don’t panic even if the sender ID says they’re from your bank. Remember, they don’t want you to think rationally and see through the scam.
- To avoid phishing, limit your use of desktop when accessing your online bank account. For security purposes, use your bank’s smartphone app when doing transactions.