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5/12/2005
06:20 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Phones Fight Phonies

On Tuesday, VeriSign hosted a dinner for journalists at Le Colonial in San Francisco to help get its message out about strong authentication. Representatives from AOL, IBM, and Intuit also were in attendance. The idea is that journalists get good food and the hosts get good press. Of course, it's not officially quid pro quo, but it's hard to imagine companies sponsoring such events without some hope that what goes around comes around. Coincidentally, Bite public relations managed the affair.

On Tuesday, VeriSign hosted a dinner for journalists at Le Colonial in San Francisco to help get its message out about strong authentication. Representatives from AOL, IBM, and Intuit also were in attendance.

The idea is that journalists get good food and the hosts get good press. Of course, it's not officially quid pro quo, but it's hard to imagine companies sponsoring such events without some hope that what goes around comes around. Coincidentally, Bite public relations managed the affair.Anyway, VeriSign had come to town for a conference called Digital ID World 2005, where the company explained its plans to make two-factor (strong) authentication cheap and affordable.

Strong authentication involves using something one has-an ATM card, example-in conjunction with something one knows-a personal identification number or PIN. It generally provides better security than weak authentication, which utilizes just one of those two components, such as a password or a door key.

It's a potentially useful technology that could help reduce identity theft and fraud.

The challenge for VeriSign and other security companies is that authentication tokens are expensive and there's no established open standard. In the absence of such a standard, it's doubtful that consumers would be thrilled to carry different tokens for every commercial Web site they deal with.

The answer, it seems, is the cell phone. They're everywhere already. Using them as authentication tokens just makes sense, to me at least.

VASCO Data Security, an enterprise security company, is doing just that. The company said today that it's now offering its Digipass software security token for Java-enabled mobile phones.

Sounds promising.

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