Cloud

Passwords are not enough, says startup making voice, motion, facial, & location verification for phones

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We hear about “bring your own device” and protecting the enterprise cloud all day every day. But what about the consumer cloud, i.e.: half the applications on your phone. Passwords aren’t safe enough, but perhaps using the wealth of available technology on a smartphone can help us more securely identify ourselves.

PassBan is a form of two-factor identification, which typically includes a password and one other form of identifying proof such as a code that puts one more step between hackers and your information. Two-factor authentication is much harder to crack simply because it’s usually device-specific (like a pin number texted to a mobile phone), although it’s still not foolproof.

“PassBan was built to replace the traditional keyfob- or token-based verification with multi-factor verification (voice, face, motion, location, token, password),” the PassBan team told VentureBeat in an email. “Its goal is to put the user in control of deciding which combinations of verifications they want to use.”

PassBan Team PhotoPassBan team

The company lets users choose a favorite type of authentication from its list of six available options. For example, you could provide a traditional pin and password, or you could use your voice and have the phone scan your face to verify that it’s really you.

If it’s too dark or too loud in a room to use voice or a face scan, it will automatically prompt you for a different form of authentication from that list.

Users can also set different levels of privacy for their apps. This is my favorite part. Not only do I hate passwords, but I believe everyone should have a tiered system of web and mobile app passwords, or authenticators in this case. You can choose to make banking apps the hardest to crack, such as setting PassBan to only give you app access if you’re in a certain location. The GPS on the phone then unlocks the app by proving the phone owner is really there.

Of course, GPS spoofing exists, but it’s also difficult and time consuming. Chances are, the average online bank robber is going to find an easier account to crack.

“I think consumers don’t care about security generally speaking, outside of Silicon Valley,” said New Enterprise Associates partner Pete Sonsini at the at the DEMO Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. “But I think there really is a need as companies are giving out more and more of these devices.”

PassBan was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in San Francisco. The company has 12 employees and has raised a total of $1.8 million in its first round of funding from “private investors and friends.”

PassBan is one of more than 75 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Fall 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Top image courtesy of igor1308, Shutterstock; DEMO image via Stephen Brashear