VeriSign has released VIP (VeriSign Identity Protection) Access for Mobile (iTunes Link), a free app that lets you supplement typical user Web site log-ins with an extra, cryptographically strong ID confirmation. Popular sites such as eBay, AOL, GEICO, and PayPal all support the app, which is currently only available for the iPhone.
What is VIP Access for Mobile?
VIP Access for Mobile works by creating credentials tied to your iPhone. These credentials are based on your phone number and confirmed via SMS messaging. After your number is confirmed, the app generates a unique, six-digit token that changes every 30 seconds based on an algorithm associated with the credentials created. It's extremely difficult for identity thieves to breach this type of two-factor authentication because the token cannot be reverse engineered and changes so quickly. (If you work for a business where IT departments issue devices called "tokens" that act as the second factor for authentication, you're likely already familiar with this type of security.)
After you install and verify your iPhone's credentials, running the app presents you with a screen like the following:
Your iPhone, your token to security
Now, your iPhone and the VeriSign function together to work as a security tokens. Your first authentication factor is your regular user ID and password and the second authentication factor is the token generated by VeriSign's app on your iPhone.
There are a couple of drawbacks to the VeriSign app. For one, you will now need your iPhone physically available in order to log in. It's also important to remember that if your iPhone is stolen and contains your log-in and password information, you're in trouble. That's why I recommended an app called, which securely stores log-in information. I also recommend that you activate the iPhone's Passcode Lock and Auto-Lock features found in the Settings app in the General section.
This type of credential-based security technology is a clear win for both you and the Web sites you visit. It also shows another innovative use for the iPhone and makes me wonder what my iPhone has the potential to replace next. Hopefully it will eventually replace some of the things I'm carrying on my lanyard.