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Facebook introduces one-time passwords

Users of sketchy PCs, take note

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Facebook began rolling out new service on Tuesday that allows people using public computers to log into the site without having to enter their regular password.

Instead, users can login with a one-time password that, upon request, Facebook zaps to their mobile phones. The temporary access code is good for 20 minutes only. The new feature is designed to prevent account compromises that result when credentials are entered into machines that have been compromised by keyloggers and similar types of malware.

“We're launching one-time passwords to make it safer to use public computers in places like hotels, cafes or airports,” Jake Brill, a Facebook product manager, blogged here. “If you have any concerns about security of the computer you're using while accessing Facebook, we can text you a one-time password to use instead of your regular password.”

To use the service, users must first configure their accounts to work with a designated mobile phone number. When they text “otp” to 32665, they should immediately receive a password that's good for the next 20 minutes.

The feature is available to select Facebook users for now. Over the next few weeks, it will gradually become available to everyone.

Brill unveiled two other features that are also intended to give users more control over their accounts. One allows users to remotely sign out of accounts. It's useful in cases when someone forgets to log off of a computer and only later realizes he's still logged in. In the past, the person had to access the computer to be logged off, but the new service allows this to happen remotely. Users can check to see if they're still logged in from their Facebook account settings page.

A third service will regularly prompt users to update their security information, Brill said. Facebook uses the information to verify users in the event a password is lost or compromised. ®

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