RSA turns everyday gadgets into security tokens

Company is working to make devices like cell phones and PDAs double as user authentication devices.

RSA Security is expected on Tuesday to announce a new user authentication method designed to replace traditional security tokens with cell phones, PDAs and other devices loaded with RSA's SecurID algorithm.

Using the new method, RSA, working with partners including cell phone maker Motorola and storage consumer memory-device maker SanDisk, seeks to turn a variety of everyday devices into security tokens. The new approach is designed to address concerns about the ease of use and implementation costs of current authentication methods.

"We're making it easier for people to have some form of strong authentication," said Art Coviello, RSA chief executive. "The device that you normally carry can now be your token."

When logging on to a network, employees can type in their user name and connect a device such as a PDA directly to the PC, allowing it to read off the device to authenticate the user. If a direct connection isn't possible, users may also have their device generate a token number that can be entered into the computer as a second form of identification.

"Banks could download the software to any device you have and this could be your token to authenticate to the bank," Coviello said. "We can proliferate the technology more readily for either the consumer or enterprise."

RSA, which is just starting to make its algorithm available to partners, is working to get device and software makers to use SecurID. Motorola has begun development and may have a new phone with SecurID as early as March, Coviello said.

Research In Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry mobile e-mail device, lets its users download the SecurID software from its site and onto their devices. But RIM is considering preloading it onto the devices, Coviello said.

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