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October 02, 2012

Toopher Two-Factor Authentication Leverages Mobile Phone Location

At ITEXPO Austin 2012 today, I met with Toopher's Co-founder & CEO, Josh Alexander, to discuss their two-factor authentication platform. He explained the company’s  two-factor authentication is drop-dead simple and leverages your mobile phone's location - pulling location data from GPS, 3G/4G triangulation, and Wi-Fi, which usually grants accuracy of at least a couple hundred feet, even when indoors.

Two-factor authentication is nothing new - Google for instance offers two-factor authentication by sending you an SMS to your mobile phone with a PIN to authenticate your device.  I actually experienced an issue with Google's YouTube two-factor authentication because my house has poor cell signal and I didn't receive the SMS. Josh told me that's why there is a pretty low adoption rate of many competing two-part authentication methods.

He added that their solution doesn't rely on SMS and you can simply leave your phone in your pocket with no need to enter a PIN because it’s leveraging location data. For example, if your mobile phone is located within say 200 feet of the device requesting permission, it can automatically grant access or display a notification message on your mobile device allowing you to permit or block access.

The company just announced an Apple iOS version last Thursday, and has had an Android version since the spring.

During our chat, Josh said, "If you can remember your password it's not a good password. If you can't remember your password it's not a good password." He then told me how RSA tokens are good, but inconvenient - since you have to pull your key fob or mobile phone out to generate a token. I told him how many gas stations require that I enter my ZIP code for the two-factor authentication and it's a bit annoying when doing this in 10 degree Connecticut weather when I just want to get the pump started quickly. It would be nice if the credit card companies could detect my mobile phone location and use that for the second-factor.

Toopher is an interesting cloud-based platform and I hope it comes to market quickly. In a way, Toopher could perhaps negate the need for NFC (Near Field Communications) in mobile phones. Though, you still need to transmit your account info via a credit card swipe, barcode, Bluetooth, or a key fob, so perhaps it can't be a NFC replacement.

Here's Josh Alexander giving a brief overview of his company:

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Austin 2012, happening now in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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