Feeds

Lenovo, PayPal, launch post-password plan

Token effort ‘FIDO’ offers open two-factor web authentication scheme

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Lenovo, PayPal and lesser-known fellow travellers Agnitio, Infineon Technologies, Nok Nok Labs and Validity, have cooked up a new authentication standard for websites and an alliance to push it to the world.

The Fast Identity Online Alliance (aka FIDO), as the group and proposed standard are both known, advances a two-factor authentication scheme capable of working with a variety of tokens including biometrics, password-protected USB sticks and embedded hardware modules. The potential to use multiple tokens means the standard will be usable by one individual on many devices.

The group’s idea is that sites adopt FIDO, promote it as a more secure form of login, and then liaise with third-party token issuers to validate logins. Such an arrangement, it is hoped, will prove more secure than simple authentication arrangements and also rather harder for scammers and spear phishers to exploit with fake websites.

A browser plugin is an essential piece of the FIDO plan, as it will handle exchange of information between the token and the FIDO authentication server employed by a FIDO-using site.

The FIDO Alliance's diagram explaining how its authentication scheme works

How FIDO works. Or will work if anyone signs up.

The USA’s National Institute for Standards and Technology has applauded FIDO, with Jeremy Grant, senior executive advisor the Institute’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) program quoted in its launch press release.

But there are gaps in FIDO’s plan, including a lack of members who want to implement the standard. A seminar in Silicon Valley later in February should help to get the ball rolling.

Technical issues, such as persistence of tokens if one replaces or wipes a device, have also been identified and will be sorted out once committees sit down and start thinking about the standard in depth.

That committee’s work may will need to consider that being conducted by the folks behind Security Assertion Markup Language and oAuth, two authentication standards FIDO mentions as complementary rather than competitive. Indeed, FIDO hopes to extend the first by offering an authentication process it lacks and improve the second by ensuring logins only happen with users’ express permission. The group says it doesn’t compete with OpenID, as it has no ambitions to provide federated identity management.

PayPal has an obvious interest in the success of FIDO, as anything that reduces fraud will doubtless be good for its bottom line. Lenovo, too, clearly has an interest given it has in the past promoted face recognition software as an authentication tool and is doubtless keen to point out the utility of fingerprint readers in its devices. As a new entrant to the smartphone market, offering secure and hands-free faceprint authentication won’t hurt its prospects as it turns to markets beyond China. The other FIDO participants appear to hope for roles in the background, facilitating authentication with their own services and making a buck along the way. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
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.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.