Behind the Screen: Unraveling OTPs and Their Glitches

In the age of digitization, the safety of our online data is paramount. We ensure this safety by using One-Time Passwords (OTPs). However, as with every system, OTPs aren’t immune to glitches. Let’s dive deep and unravel the world of OTPs and understand their occasional hiccups.

Understanding OTPs

OTPs are short sequences of numbers, often six digits long, sent to a user’s mobile device or email. Their purpose is straightforward: to verify the identity of the person trying to access a particular online service. Think of them as temporary keys that expire once used or after a short duration.

How are they generated?


OTPs can be generated based on the current time, and both the server and the client (you) know the algorithm and the present time.


Every time an OTP is generated, the counter goes up by one.


Sent directly to your phone via SMS. It’s generated on the server side and then sent to the user.

The Glitches and Their Roots

Despite their sophistication, OTP systems sometimes need to improve. Here are common glitches and their potential causes:

Delayed OTPs:

Probably the most common issue. Network congestion, or sometimes server problems, can lead to significant delays in receiving an OTP.

No OTP at all:

If you’ve ever been left staring at your phone, waiting in vain for an OTP, server issues or blockages by telecom operators might be the culprits.

OTP Validity:

Sometimes, when an OTP arrives, it’s already expired. This can be due to initial delays in sending the OTP or issues with time synchronization.

Tackling OTP Errors

1. Use Alternate Methods:

Many platforms offer multiple ways to receive OTPs, like via call or email. If one isn’t working, try the other.

2. Sync Time:

If using an app-based authenticator, ensure your device’s time is synchronized with the server.

3. Check for Blocks:

Ensure your service provider hasn’t blocked messages from the particular sender.

4. Strong Network Connection:

Ensure you have a robust and stable connection, which can often cause delays or failures.

OTP Safety and Potential Pitfalls

With the increasing reliance on OTPs, hackers are always looking for ways to exploit them. Here are some concerns:

  1. Phishing Attacks: Fraudsters often trick users into giving away their OTPs by pretending to be trusted entities.
  2. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: Hackers intercept the OTPs as they are transmitted from the server to the user.
  3. Physical Device Theft: If someone steals your phone, they might have access to your OTPs.

To protect yourself, never share your OTP with anyone, ensure the site you’re entering your details into is secure, and consider using two-factor authentication whenever possible.

The Future of OTPs

With the rise of biometric systems like fingerprint and facial recognition, will OTPs become obsolete? Not likely. Biometrics, while advanced, have their set of challenges. OTPs, on the other hand, are simple, cost-effective, and don’t require advanced hardware.

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However, hybrid systems might use biometrics and OTPs to provide layered security. Such systems will combine the best of both worlds, offering enhanced security.


One-time passwords are a cornerstone of our digital security infrastructure. While they do have their glitches and potential pitfalls, understanding them better and knowing how to troubleshoot common problems can save us a lot of time and frustration. As technology evolves, we can expect OTP systems to become more robust, reducing the glitches we experience today. But until then, the knowledge of their workings and pitfalls is our best defense.

James Vines

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