Better Two-Factor Security from Google Titan

This article is an amusing collision between our last two topics – the problems with two-factor and multi-factor authentication and our four-part story on Google’s data mining habits.  Google has developed and released their Titan MFA security key as a more secure way to implement multi-factor authentication that can’t be attacked through phishing and man-in-the-middle exploits.  So if you can stand turning another part of your online life over to the tender mercies of Google, here is the story on Google Titan.

Titan comes in two versions – USB, similar in size and form factor to YubiKey, and a Bluetooth enabled fob.  The Bluetooth device allows users to connect the Titan to smartphones, tablets, and Bluetooth enabled laptops.  This puts true 2FA security into the hands of smartphone users in a simple to use package.

Titan conforms to the FIDO open source authentication framework, and relies on the U2F (universal second factor) protocol.  So these devices will work with any website that recognizes FIDO and U2F authentication.

Advantages of Titan over a smartphone app such as Google Authenticator or an RSA token are these:  First, some newer phishing exploits have developed a way to spoof not only the password login screen, but also a second 2FA entry box as well.  Once they get the 6 digit pin, they replay it on the genuine site and log in as you.  This takes speed and timing to pull off, but it is possible.  Other methods have been developed that simply by-pass the need to the 2FA code.

Having a physical device such as Titan takes the 2FA process out of the cloud and off the network and locates it in a local device in your possession.  The only way for an attacker to get through is to have your password and physical access to your Titan key.

The Titan bundle of both the USB key and Bluetooth fob is around $50 in the Google store.  Either device may be purchased individually for about $25.

Compared to YubiKey, Titan is more expensive ($50 to YubiKey’s $20).  Titan has Bluetooth capability, Yubikey does not.  YubiKey is made in the USA, Titan is manufactured in China.

I am strongly considering moving from the Authenticator app to A FIDO based security key.  The Bluetooth connectivity of the Titan is a plus for me.  You might give this some consideration yourself.




About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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