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PIN patterns go mobile

Though shoulder surfing is less of an issue

SANS - Survey on application security programs

GrIDsure has teamed up with secure communications firm Masabi to create a mobile version of the pattern technology that's touted as a replacement to PIN-based identity systems.

This will take on the hardware tokens used by companies such as RSA Security for remote identification.

Secure tokens are generally keyfob-style devices displaying a series of random numbers, changing every minute or two, which share a common seed (starting point) with a remote server. When the user connects they are asked to enter the number on their secure token, along with a password, to provide two-factor authentication: a thief stealing the token can do nothing, while someone intercepting the password is also blocked for lack of the token.

Implementing the same functionality on a mobile phone, in Java, requires a reliable sequence of random numbers and a secure connection to the server to ensure a shared seed. Masabi can provide both of these with its 3K RSA library, as long as the clock on your phone remains accurate.

Taking this one step further, GrIDsure has added its pattern-recognising technology so the phone can display a grid of numbers based on the current random supplied by Masabi's software token. The user then overlays their remembered pattern onto the grid, and presents the numbers to the remote server, confident that neither pickpocket nor hacker can gain their authentication credentials.

The authentication is still two-factor - the shape the user remembers and the application running on the phone - but can be deployed without new hardware and, hopefully, with minimal user disruption. Still, explaining to users why it's secure, and how to keep it so, might prove more challenging than developing the technology. ®

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