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Authentication

10/21/2014
01:00 PM
Sara Peters
Sara Peters
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Google Expands 2-Factor Authentication For Chrome, Gmail

Google issues USB keys for Chrome users to log into Google accounts and any other websites that support FIDO universal two-factor authentication -- but it's no help to mobile users.

Google today expanded two-factor authentication (2FA) for Google account users and opened the door for other websites to offer 2FA to customers who visit their sites through Google Chrome.

Google launched support for Security Key, making Chrome the first browser to implement support for Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Universal Two-Factor (U2F) Authentication -- an open-source standard that lets users log in with a password and a variety of physical devices. Those devices may include USB keys, Bluetooth devices, NFC, biometrics, and smartcards, but for now Google only supports USB keys that are "FIDO-ready."

Google will continue to offer Google account holders its existing two-factor authentication method, in which a user manually enters a six-digit code sent to their mobile phone. However, as the company explains:

...sophisticated attackers could set up lookalike sites that ask you to provide your verification codes to them, instead of Google. Security Key offers better protection against this kind of attack, because it uses cryptography instead of verification codes and automatically works only with the website it's supposed to work with.

The drawback of Security Key, of course, is that it only works on devices that have USB ports -- thereby counting out most mobile phones and Apple devices.

Several companies recently released new lines of FIDO-ready devices -- including Duo Security, Entersekt, Infineon, NXP, Nok Nok Labs, Plug-up International, ST Microelectronics, Sonavation, StrongAuth, SurePassID, and Yubico.

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Strategist
10/21/2014 | 1:28:23 PM
Support and devices

I support the two factor authentication, I have been hacked even with firewalls and security measures in place, so keeping my accounts more secure is welcome news. Do you think this will increase their support needs to accommodate issues with the secondary authentication process and devices?

Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
10/21/2014 | 1:58:10 PM
Re: Support and devices
@impactnow  Well I think it's a great step, but the next piece has to be how to make it work on mobile devices. If people can only log into their Gmail (or whatever other site they access through Chrome) from a PC, they'll be less likely to use it. 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Ninja
10/21/2014 | 5:24:15 PM
Re: Support and devices
In theory, you could use a dongle for a smartphone, similar to the Square reader. But it would be a hassle to keep track of.
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
10/23/2014 | 4:39:18 PM
Re: Support and devices
@Thomas Claburn  That's a very good point. We need to keep looking for ways to make strong security easier. Maybe that sounds counterintuitive, but I think sometimes in security we undervalue the importance of usability.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Strategist
10/21/2014 | 8:49:33 PM
Re: Support and devices

Sara I agree -- I would think that the next step would be to make it device agnostic so access is easy and universal.

HAnatomi
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HAnatomi,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2014 | 2:50:06 AM
1 + 1 is not necessarily larger than 1 in the real world
 The two-factor authentication, though not a silver bullet, could be reliable when it comes with a reliable password. 2 is larger than 1 on paper, but two weak boys in the real world may well be far weaker than a toughened guy.  Physical tokens and phones are easily lost, stolen and abused. Then the password would be the last resort.  It should be strongly emphasized that a truly reliable 2-factor solution requires the use of the most reliable password. 

 Using a strong password does help a lot even against the attack of cracking the stolen hashed passwords back to the original passwords.  The problem is that few of us can firmly remember many such strong passwords.  We cannot run as fast and far as horses however strongly urged we may be.  We are not built like horses.

 At the root of the password headache is the cognitive phenomena called "interference of memory", by which we cannot firmly remember more than 5 text passwords on average.  What worries us is not the password, but the textual password.  The textual memory is only a small part of what we remember.  We could think of making use of the larger part of our memory that is less subject to interference of memory.  More attention could be paid to the efforts of expanding the password system to include images, particularly KNOWN images, as well as conventional texts.
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