Product Watch: Startup Rolls Out New Approach To User Authentication

WWPass offers single device that authenticates users to many systems; secure storage technology protects data by storing it in geographically distributed fragments
Arguing that current methods of user authentication are either inconvenient or insecure, a start-up company later this month will roll out a new approach to authentication that could allow users to access many different secure technologies with a single device.

WWPass, a privately funded startup, today launched PassKey, a single, portable device that is capable of providing secure access to a variety of secure applications, services, and technologies.

“What we’re offering is a universal, single sign-on technology that has no single point of failure and isn't vulnerable at the initial point of authentication,” says Alan Taffel, chief marketing officer at WWPass.

Rather than requiring a separate password and/or token for each application, WWPass offers a secure hardware device called a PassKey that provides a single, anonymous method of accessing networks, applications, transaction systems, or even physically secure areas. Unlike current forms of authentication, the PassKey is associated with a person, rather than an application, the company says.

On the other side of an authentication session, WWPass-enabled applications, servers, or other systems are able to bilaterally authenticate with WWPass, the company states. WWPass then independently identifies to the user the website requesting credentials. Together with the elimination of username/passwords for website log-in, the new technology reduces users' susceptibility to phishing, it says.

Unlike other single sign-on technologies, WWPass maintains no database of user identities. Its geographically dispersed cloud storage service encrypts and fragments data, distributes those fragments around the globe, and stores them anonymously, the company says.

While the WWPass technology offers a potentially new approach to authentication, it can work only in applications or services that have been "WWPass-enabled." The startup is working to get major application providers to implement the technology, and has already enabled some open-source applications, including Apache Web servers, Magento e-commerce servers, WordPress CMS systems, and PKCS11-compliant secure applications such as Thunderbird email, Linux login, and OpenVPN.

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