A new alliance formally announced today targets a big security problem – and an annoyance for many users:


Lenovo, the world’s No. 2 PC manufacturer which operates its executive headquarters in Morrisville, is among the founding members of the FIDO Alliance, FIDO being the acronym for Fast IDentity Online.

PayPal also is among the founding partners. Others include Agnitio, Infineon Technologies, Nok Nok Labs, and Validity.

The group’s aim is to develop an open standards protocol that it says has the potential to “revolutionize online authentication.”

“FIDO is much more secure than regular passwords,” the group says. Highlights include:

  • “Two Factor Authentication
  • “Keeps a secret that is unique for each user at each website
  • “Most secret values are stored in hardware that cannot be accessed
  • “FIDO can be used for account logins on the internet or intranet
  • “FIDO can be used for web or in applications
  • “FIDO can be used to confirm actions like transactions or user agreements”

In these days of BYOD (bring your own device) and the nightmare that creates for corporate network IT managers and as end users struggle to create passwords that aren’t easily breakable across multiple devices, FIDO could be an answer to prayers.

FIDO spells out the challenge:

“The Internet requires users to confirm their identity to logon and access many online accounts and services.

“Current password authentication is weak due to reuse, malware and phishing, and leaves  enterprises and end-users vulnerable to financial and identity theft. FIDO’s standards-based approach automatically detects when a FIDO-enabled device is present, and offers users the option to replace passwords with authentication methods that are more secure and easier to use.

“The FIDO Alliance encourages and invites participation from all companies and organizations that want simpler, stronger authentication.”

But these are not simple solutions. FIDO intends to support a broad range of security standards such as biometrics (fingerprint scanners, voice and facial recognition) and the alphabet soup of technolofy solutions such as TPM (Trusted Platform Modules) as well as OTP (One Time passwords) and such.

FIDO wants to link standards and technologies into “a single infrastructure” that still can be tailored to meet individual network and user needs.

“The Internet – especially with recent rapid mobile and cloud expansion – exposes users and enterprises, more than ever before, to fraud. It’s critical to know who you’re dealing with on the Internet. The FIDO Alliance is a private sector and industry-driven collaboration to combat the very real challenge of confirming every user’s identity online,” said Michael Barrett, who is the FIDO Alliance president and someone who holds an extremely important security job.

He’s PayPal’s Chief Information Security Officer.

“By giving users choice in the way they authenticate and taking an open-based approach to standards, we can make universal online authentication a reality. We want every company, vendor, and organization that needs to verify user identity to join us in making online authentication easier and safer for users everywhere,” he added in the announcement. 

What benefits do Lenovo see in the alliance?

“Lenovo products have earned a reputation for outstanding security features and designs,” said Mark Cohen, whose title is vice president and general manager fofr Ecosystem and Monetization an Lenovo.

“”Recognizing that our customers wanted more than just passwords for authentication, we began shipping ThinkPad PCs with integrated fingerprint readers nearly a decade ago. We are excited about the new FIDO standard because it enhances both security and convenience, enabling biometric and other forms of authentication to take place directly between the user and the service that he or she is trying to use.”

MIT Technology review notes that one startup already has raised $15 million and targets FIDO deployments.

“We finally can stop relying on these things that have been troubling us since the mainframe era,” Phil Dunkelberger, who is a former CEO of PGP [Pretty Good Privacy] Corporation and CEO of Nok Nok Labs, told the magazine. 

[LENOVO ARCHIVE: Check out eight years of Lenovo stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]