Google buys Israeli token and password killer Slicklogin

Google has acquired Slicklogin, an Israeli authentication startup that uses location and a sound challenge to verify an identity at login.

SlickLogin announced the deal on Sunday via a post on its website, stating that it was joining Google’s own efforts to develop systems for simpler authentication on the internet.

“Today we’re announcing that the SlickLogin team is joining Google, a company that shares our core beliefs that logging in should be easy instead of frustrating, and authentication should be effective without getting in the way,” said Slicklogin.

“Google was the first company to offer 2-step verification to everyone, for free - and they're working on some great ideas that will make the internet safer for everyone. We couldn’t be more excited to join their efforts.”

Google confirmed the acquisition to “The SlickLogin team has shown they can build secure, easy-to-use authentication tools, and we're excited to welcome them to Google.The team will be joining Google's Israel R&D Center in Tel Aviv - starting this week,” a spokesperson for Google in Israel said.

Google didn’t respond to questions about the value of the deal, which, given the team is joining its R&D centre, appears to fit the bill for a so-called 'acqui-hire' as opposed to its other recent Israeli acquisition, Waze, the community-based navigation service. Waze continues to operate its own technology and brand while some of its features are integrated into Google Maps.

SlickLogin’s co-founders Or Zelig, Eran Galili and Ori Kabeli are all graduates of the Israeli Defence Force, according to a TechCrunch profile last year.

The company launched at the Disrupt San Francisco conference in 2013 with a product that fit the theme of Google’s vision for simpler authentication, which it’s pushing through the U2F (Universal second-factor) authentication protocols being developed by the FIDO Alliance. Similar to the alliance’s objectives, SlickLogin was offering an alternative to passwords and and one-time password tokens.

SlickLogin relied on sound to make a smartphone a tool for authenticating to a website on a PC. A website could support SlickLogin’s authentication process by including a few lines of code to add its login button. When the user taps the button, they hold the phone up to the PC, which emanates a sound that is audible to a machine, but not to the human ear. SlickLogin can also verify the phone’s location using WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, QR codes and GPS. The downside was that if a phone is lost of stolen, someone else could use it to login to the person's accounts.

The deal comes as the FIDO Alliance gains momentum with the release last week of its first public draft specifications. Google has led the alliance with a large internal using U2F tokens from Yubikey, which built a prototype that is plugged into a PC's USB port. Googlers press a button on the U2F device to login to the company intranet. Besides Google, FIDO members now include RSA, Dell and Microsoft and a host of biometrics and authentication vendors.

The FIDO protocols are using public key cryptography techniques to develop login solutions that reduce the importance of the password during login.

Websites that support FIDO’s “passwordless” Universal Authentication Framework (UAF) protocol would let people use their smartphones to incorporate biometric signatures into an online authentication process. Meanwhile, under a U2F implementation, a user would tap a USB-connected U2F device, or tap an NFC-enabled U2F device to authenticate.

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