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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.

Thomas Claburn

May 12, 2005

1 Min Read

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.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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