As the number of passwords a consumer needs to conduct his or her digital life continues to grow, so does the very real risk of identity theft, fraud or hacking. But Google is setting out on a three-pronged attack that could one day consign the text-based password to the annals of tech history, alongside VHS videos, mini discs and standalone mp3 players.
The first step is a new feature called Smart Lock Passwords. It’s been a developer tool for some time but is now live. It enables services that require a login to be tied to a person’s Google account.
A type of password manager, it allows users to store login details for other apps and services within their Google account. Therefore, if logged into Google, you’re also automatically logged in everywhere else, too. And it works within the Chrome browser on a desktop or with the apps on an Android smartphone, tablet or on the upcoming Android TV, too.
The second prong was announced at the Google I/O developer conference on Friday and uses getting to know an individual as a means of validation. Everyone has different speech patterns, typing styles and ways of tapping or swiping.
When Google monitors and uses them for authentication, they’re up to 10 times more secure than a fingerprint scan. And they’re not intrusive. And for those concerned about giving the company even more data, everything would be done on the device itself for security — just like the Touch ID and payment validation systems on Apple’s latest iPhones.
With no long strings of text and symbols to remember, authentication would be completely natural and impossible to fake, no matter how gifted a hacker. During her presentation, Google’s Regina Dugan said that the system was already functioning but wasn’t coming just yet. However, the company is investing heavily in its development, partnering with 16 other institutions to speed up development and testing.
The third and final prong is something called Project Vault. A secure computer the size of a micro SD card, it can be integrated into devices — so a computer within a computer — to ensure that communications can’t be hacked or data hijacked. And it has 4GB of storage, too. This is already being tested by businesses and it will be heading to enterprises first, but Dugan said that a consumer version is definitely in the works, too.