Published: Fri, July 27, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

After extensive testing, Google introduces the Titan Security Key

After extensive testing, Google introduces the Titan Security Key

Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise, then, that Google is looking to get into the security key business itself.

'We have had no reported or confirmed account takeovers since implementing security keys at Google, ' the spokesperson said. The system takes things much further than just using two-factor authentication, and it's going to be available for select Google Cloud customers soon. "It all depends on the sensitivity of the app and the risk of the user at that point in time". With a USB security key, Krebs On Security explains, the user no longer needs to enter a password at all on a site, as long as they've got the key on hand.

Since the keys don't rely on one-time codes, either generated by an app or sent over SMS, there's also less chance an attacker can guess or intercept them. How Google has managed to keep its employees safe?

The Titan Security Key is available in USB and Bluetooth variants; the former plugs into a computer's USB port, while the latter is designed for use with mobile devices. The key works without the need for any special software drivers. But the same study showed the U2F, or security key approach, had a 0% failure rate. Duo Security [full disclosure: an advertiser on this site] also can be set up to work with U2F. "We did a two-year study that showed that OTP-based authentication had an average failure rate of 3%, and with U2F security keys, we experienced zero percent failure". U2F is now supported by Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera. However, Firefox and Quantum don't enable U2F by default.

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Meanwhile Intel has informed that this security vulnerability impacts Dual Band Wireless-AC, Tri-Band Wireless-AC, and Wireless-AC product families.

Apple has not yet said when or if it will support the standard in its Safari browser.

CNET tried out the Titan Key in an extended hands-on, and if you're familiar with physical security keys, you're probably already familiar with the basic concept.

If a site you frequent does not yet support WebAuthn, please consider hardening your login with another form of 2FA. Google Cloud and G Suite customers will be able to use a version of this called context-aware access to control access to their Google Cloud or G Suite accounts based on location from which access is requested and the type of device being used. It'll come in a bundle with both the USB and Bluetooth versions for $50, or you can buy one or the other for about $20 to $25 each.

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According to Google, a common phishing attempt is to put up a fake website that pretends to be a Google service (such as Gmail) asking for a two-factor authentication code.

Google created a web page to walk users through setting up advanced protection, including where to purchase USB and Bluetooth security keys on Amazon.

Besides this, various tech firms - including Apple, Qualcomm and Intel - are now fixing a critical Bluetooth flaw, caused by a validation problem with some vendors' implementation of the cryptographic key exchange, that could allow a man-in-the-middle attack when two devices are pairing. The trouble will be getting people to use one.

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