Feeds

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

SMS, phone number no longer needed

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
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.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.