Feeds

Google plots Chrome web password maker

How the secrets are stored and recovered is another matter

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Google is developing a password-generating tool that will bolt into its Chrome browser.

The technology is designed to painlessly create hard-to-guess passwords when users sign up to websites. Whenever a site presents surfers with a field requiring a password, Chrome will display a key icon, giving users the option of allowing the browser to generate the secret for them. This password, provided a user accepts it and it meets the site's security criteria, is reused next time the site is accessed.

Google is positioning the technology as an interim workaround for the well-known shortcomings of asking humans to come up with memorable non-trivial passwords, until more websites support OpenID, which Google views as a long-term solution to the problem.*

The ad brokering giant neatly summarises the pitfalls of password use that makes its tool potentially useful:

Passwords are not a very good form of authentication. They are easy to use but they are trivial to steal, either through phishing, malware, or a malicious/incompetent site owner (Gawker, Sony, etc.) Furthermore, since people are so apt to reuse passwords losing one password leaks a substantial amount of your internet identity.

The interim solution, while easier for some than using existing browser-based tools (Password Manager and Browser Sync), is certainly not without its shortcomings, which Google is trying to resolve or minimise.

The technology works using auto-complete. So any site that omits support for auto-complete can't be protected. "Maybe we can get users to re-authenticate to the browser before logging into such sites," a post on Google's Chromium developer blog suggests.

Google plans to enable users to see and perhaps export or print saved passwords from a new web service. Access to this feature is likely to be protected by insisting that users switch on two-factor authentication schemes (perhaps requiring a code from an SMS sent to a registered mobile as well as a password) before allowing access to the technology.

Using Chrome to generate passwords might make Google an attractive target if the credentials are stored in the Chocolate Factory's cloud. Google downplays such concerns, arguing that there's already a bullseye painted on its back.

"Google is already a high-value target so this shouldn't change much," it notes. "Moreover it's easier for us to make logging into Google more secure via StrongAUTH than have every site on the internet secure itself. At some point in the future it might also be possible for us to automatically change all of a user's passwords when we realise that their account is hijacked."

A more detailed explanation of how the technology might work, featuring screenshots, can be found on Google's Chromium developer blog here. ®

Bootnote

* Mozilla is promoting its own browser-based alternative to usernames and passwords for website logins. Browser ID operates in much the same way as OpenID, which is already supported by many websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Both systems support decentralised authentication, allowing users to consolidate their digital identities, therefore minimising the need to maintain scores of passwords to log into websites.

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?