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6/13/2007
09:30 AM
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Authentication Goes USB Route

TriCipher to debut smart drive-based, multi-factor authentication for $2 to $3 per user

Imagine your bank sending you its branded USB smart drive that contains your multi-factor authentication for online banking and could also store data and music. That's just what some banks will do in the next month or so with TriCipher's new ID Tool ToGo, which the authentication company will roll out tomorrow, Dark Reading has learned.

"We deliver this in a portable USB smart drive. It's a very secure multifactor solution," says Seth Knox, director of product marketing. TriCipher also offers it as a Web-based tool that runs in the client browser, he says.

TriCipher built the tool as an alternative to one-time password tokens, biometrics, and smart cards, which require the user to carry a dedicated hardware device. The ID Tool ToGo just pops into a client's USB port, Knox says.

It's not that banks haven't already been giving out security devices. "There just hasn't been much adoption, because it requires you to carry one per bank," Knox says. "This works with a standard USB drive, so they can offer to download it to an existing USB drive. This is a natural giveaway."

Knox, who couldn't disclose which banks will be branding its new product, says the device can handle multifactor authentication for multiple banks, so it's more flexible. And other USB smart-card based authenticators require smart-card drivers on the client, he says, but ID Tool ToGo does not.

It uses PKI technology and does all its digital signing on the drive rather than over the wire. And it doesn't send the "shared secret," so it's less susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, he says.

"If you go to a hotel business center and plug it in and do your authentication, you still have the same strength as with a home computer with a digital certificate," he says. And when you pop it out of the drive, none of the authentication data remains on the system.

If you're worried about malware finding its way onto the device, Knox notes that TriCipher can run security checks on the devices, and because the user's entire credentials are not stored in any one place, an attacker couldn't steal it with malware. The setup goes like this: The user inserts the smart drive and activates the account. Then a Web browser is automatically launched to the provider's Website (such as a bank), and the user enters his username and password. The rest of the authentication process happens in the background.

TriCipher begins officially shipping the product tomorrow. It's priced at $2 to $3 per user for a perpetual license, and it comes with a built-in Firefox browser.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • TriCipher Inc. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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