Google Wants to Protect Your Password with Sound

Don't lose your phone, though.

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Jared Newman for TIME

Google has purchased SlickLogin, a three-person startup out of Tel Aviv, to help bolster the search giant’s two-step authentication efforts.

Today, if you’re looking to fortify your Google account beyond a single password, the two-step authentication process consists of you first logging in with your password, and then entering a second verification code that’s sent to your phone by way of a text message, a phone call or by using Google’s Authenticator app (which basically turns your phone into one of those number-cycling RSA keyfobs).

SlickLogin would ostensibly automate second stage of this verification. Instead of having to wait for a call or a text message or having to fumble around with the Authenticator app, you’d apparently just place your phone next to your computer.

According to the AFP:

The technology involves sending barely audible sounds through computer speakers and then having the users’ smartphones recognize the unique tones and respond in kind. It also reportedly factors in the location of smartphones.

According to the announcement on SlickLogin’s site, “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.”

It would be interesting to see one of these “great ideas” consists of Google beefing this up so that it could be used for people who haven’t opted for two-factor authentication — or to make opting for two-factor authentication unnecessary in the first place. Imagine being prompted to enter your password, and just having your phone next to your computer would be enough. Don’t lose your phone, though.

And don’t forget that this all might be a mere stepping stone to bigger things. Google may have sold its Motorola hardware wing to Lenovo, but it kept the Motorola research team. That team is working on a once-daily password pill you’d ingest, the idea being that your body is the ultimate authentication device.

Sound-based login startup joins Google tech chorus [AFP]