Google Joins FIDO Alliance: Hopes to Replace Passwords

Google has joined a consortium of technology companies that plans to make online accounts more secure. The FIDO Alliance, which was founded in part by Lenovo and PayPal, launched a set of technology standards earlier in the year that could reduce reliance on passwords. The group hopes hardware can have more of a role in authenticating users, and has been working on different ideas such as security chips and voice recognition.

The FIDO Alliance is developing “technology that would give the device a person was using a role in authenticating them so that a password alone is not enough to unlock an account,” reports MIT Technology Review. “That approach can make it impossible to compromise accounts just by stealing passwords, as hackers did in order to break into Twitter this year and LinkedIn last year.”

“Logging into an account using the FIDO approach might involve the security chip in your PC or phone being checked, or a person being prompted to say a short phrase so the sound of their voice can be matched with a voiceprint on file,” notes the article.

Google joining the group is seen as a major boost for FIDO, which will need support from industry leaders to succeed. Google has already expressed interest in replacing passwords. “As well as offering two factor security, where a person must provide a one time code sent to their phone along with their password, the company is also testing the idea of replacing passwords with personal USB keys, or even rings with contactless NFC technology.”

According to the FIDO Alliance site, the group’s mission is “to change the nature of online authentication.” It lists three objectives:
1) “Developing technical specifications that define an open, scalable, interoperable set of mechanisms that reduce the reliance on passwords to authenticate users.”
2) “Operating industry programs to help ensure successful worldwide adoption of the Specifications.”
3) “Submitting mature technical Specification(s) to recognized standards development organization(s) for formal standardization.”