Nok Nok? Who’s there? Usually someone with a terribly easy to guess password, a cyber criminal’s dream. But perhaps not for long.
Lenovo, the Chinese PC and phone manufacturer, has invested in Nok Nok Labs, a cyber security start up which aims to transform the industry by replacing passwords with a new technology which works with everything from fingerprints to voice recognition.
Nok Nok Labs raised $16.5m from Lenovo as well as venture capitalists DCM and Onset Ventures on Thursday to create a platform which will support the latest authentication technology. Lenovo will join the board of Nok Nok – and the assumption is, use the new tech in its devices from laptops to smartphones.
Both the Silicon Valley-based start up and Lenovo were founding members of the Fast Identity Online alliance, a group of over 100 companies including Google, Microsoft and PayPal that wants to create a new cyber security ecosystem. The alliance scored its first victory this week when Samsung teamed up with PayPal to use its fingerprint technology in the new Galaxy S5.
They companies behind the initiative aim to stop users relying on easily guessed passwords, often used for several sites, that make it easy for cyber criminals to access sensitive information online. Unable to remember the complex passwords suggested by experts, the most common passwords are still “123456″ and “password”.
Nok Nok Labs is led by Phillip Dunkelberger, the co-founder and former chief executive of the PGP corporation, an encryption company acquired by Symantec. Richard Clarke, a former senior White House advisor on cyber security and counter-terrorism, is on the board.
Mr Dunkelberger said the new technology reduces the cost of authentication and makes it far easier for companies to replace passwords with anything from voice recognition to iris scanning. He said it ensures no authentication data ever leaves your device – and if the device gets stolen, no one else can use it.
“The real opportunity, the big vision of this, is the fact that everything authenticates,” he said. He said he hoped his technology would be used in the growing ‘Internet of Things’ industry, so people do not have to rely on passwords when their fridges and thermostats are connected to the internet.
Mr Clarke said he had “no doubt” the authentication platform would be used on 100m devices by the end of the year. Recalling when he first met Mr Dunkelberger to talk about the company, he said: “Two years ago I thought that will be an infrastructure play – or it is not going to happen at all. We all know the answer to that now.”
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