Feeds

Twitter hardens two-factor authentication with app-based secure logins

SMS, phone number no longer needed

Security for virtualized datacentres

Barely two months after rolling out two-factor authentication, Twitter has beefed up its login procedures yet again, both to improve security and to make two-factor available to more Twitter users worldwide.

Twitter launched two-factor authentication in late May with a system based on SMS messaging. While that was good enough for many users, however, it did present some problems.

For one thing, verification via SMS is only available via supported mobile carriers, which isn't all of them. For another, using SMS as a security mechanism relies on the SMS delivery channel being secure, and some carriers' text messaging systems might not be.

On Tuesday, Twitter rolled out an update to its two-factor authentication scheme that can optionally make use of the Twitter mobile app for Android and iOS, rather than SMS.

"Simply tap a button on your phone, and you're good to go," Twitter security engineer Alex Smolen wrote in a blog post. "This means you don't have to wait for a text message and then type in the code each time you sign in on twitter.com."

The app approach offers other advantages, as well. Because it's based on public-key cryptography, it's inherently more secure than the SMS approach. The mobile app generates a public/private key pair and Twitter only stores the public key, while the private key never leaves the user's phone. As a result, an attacker won't be able to fake a login even if Twitter's authentication server is compromised.

When the app receives a login verification request, it will also tell you details about the browser that is being used to make the login attempt, including its approximate location – so if you see any suspicious logins from Iran, you'll know not to approve them.

The app also generates a "backup code" during the setup process, which it advises you to write down and keep in a safe place. In the event you ever lose your phone, you can use the backup code to login to Twitter, un-enroll your old phone from login verification, and enroll your new one.

As before, login verification is optional and can be enabled from any Twitter account's Settings panel. To take advantage of the new, app-based authentication process, you'll need to update to version 5.9 of the Twitter app for iOS or version 4.1.4 of Twitter for Android, both of which shipped on Tuesday. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.