Forget all the “knock knock” jokes. Nok Nok Labs is deadly serious about making device access more secure. And Lenovo is stepping up to help with cash.

Just a year ago, Lenovo helped launch a new security organization called Fast IDentity Alliance, or FIDO, in an effort to improve authentication – perhaps even replacing passwords. On Wednesday, Nok Nok Labs, a startup that helped launch FIDO, announced that Lenovo has signed on as an investor in a $16.5 million round of financing.

“We’re very excited to be working more closely with Lenovo as a strategic partner given the rapid expansion of mobile devices and services in the Chinese market and Lenovo’s global reach,” Nok Nok Chief Executive Officer Philip Dunkelberger said iin announcing the deal.

As part of the deal, Lenovo’s George He, who heads up cloud computing efforts at the world’s No. 1 PC manufacturer, joins the Nok Nok board.

The investment reflects Lenovo’s continued efforts to expand beyond hardware into services. It unveiled new “DoIt” apps at the Mobile World Congress in Madrid on Monday, for example.

Nok Nok and Lenovo were among the founding partners of FIDO. Others include PayPal, Validity, Infineon and Agnito.

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 said when it launched.

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”

Nok Nok, which is based in Palo Alto, launched in 2011 and is led by a host of executives with security experience.

Other investors in the Series B round include DCM and Onset Ventures, according to media reports.

Nok Nok says it already offers “FIDO-ready devices.”

The company has raised $31.5 million, including $4 million in debt financing, according to VentureBeat.

Lenovo operates its global executive headquarters in Morrisville.

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