Sep 20, 2010

Google Authenticators -- Moving security beyond passwords

Hey look... Google Authenticators!

Moving security beyond passwords: "
Posted by Travis McCoy, Product Manager, Google Security Team

Entering your username and password on a standard website gives you access to everything from your email and bank accounts to your favorite social networking site. Your passwords possess a lot of power, so it's critical to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, we often find that passwords are the weakest link in the security chain. Keeping track of many passwords is a pain, and unfortunately accounts are regularly compromised when passwords are too weak, are reused across websites, or when people are tricked into sharing their password with someone untrustworthy. These are difficult industry problems to solve, and when re-thinking the traditional username/password design, we wanted to do more.

As we explained today on our Google Enterprise Blog, we've developed an option to add two-step verification to Google Apps accounts. When signing in, Google will send a verification code to your phone, or let you generate one yourself using an application on your Android, BlackBerry or iPhone device. Entering this code, in addition to a normal password, gives us a strong indication that the person signing in is actually you. This new feature significantly improves the security of your Google Account, as it requires not only something you know: your username and password, but also something that only you should have: your phone. Even if someone has stolen your password, they'll need more than that to access your account.

Building the technology and infrastructure to support this kind of feature has taken careful thought. We wanted to develop a security feature that would be easy to use and not get in your way. Along those lines, we're offering a variety of sign in options, along with the ability to indicate when you're using a computer you trust and don't want to be asked for a verification code from that machine in the future. Making this service available to millions of users at no cost took a great deal of coordination across Google’s specialized infrastructure, from building a scalable SMS and voice call system to developing open source mobile applications for your smart phone. The result is a feature we hope you'll find simple to manage and that makes it easy to better protect your account.

We look forward to gathering feedback about this feature and making it available to all of our users in the coming months.

If you'd like to learn more about about staying safe online, see our ongoing security blog series or visit