Mozilla launches first beta version of 'Persona' website authentication system
Mozilla aims to make website usernames and passwords obsolete through Persona, an email-address-based authentication system
IDG News Service - Mozilla launched the first beta version of its browser-independent website authentication system, Persona, on Thursday and hopes to convince the Web developer community to give it a try.
The Persona system was first launched as an experimental project called BrowserID in July 2011 with the goal of eliminating the need of creating and managing individual usernames and passwords for different websites.
Persona authenticates users against websites that support the system by using only their existent email addresses.
Users need to first create an account on Mozilla's persona.org website, define a password and add one or more email addresses to their accounts. The ownership of each individual email address is verified by clicking on a link sent to it.
After that, signing into a website that supports Persona authentication is only a two-click process. Users who are not already logged into persona.org will need to input both their email and Persona password during the sign-in process, while users who are already authenticated will only be asked to select which verified email address they want to use.
Persona is conceptually similar to other authentication systems like OpenID that also allow users to authenticate on different websites using verified identities.
However, Persona relies on public key cryptography operations performed at the browser level without the identity provider -- in this case the email provider -- being involved in the actual authentication process as with OpenID.
This means that Persona provides a greater level of privacy as the system doesn't track the activity of its users across the Web. "It creates a wall between signing you in and what you do once you're there. The history of what sites you visit is stored only on your own computer," Mozilla said on the persona.org website.
However, there are some drawbacks. While eliminating the need to remember separate usernames and passwords for every single website, Persona creates a single point of failure -- the persona.org password.
If a user's Persona password is stolen it can be used to impersonate them, Ben Adida, Persona project lead at Mozilla, said Thursday via email. "There is, of course, no way around this."
In this respect, Persona is not very different from password management applications that also rely on a master password to keep all of the user's identities protected. However, Mozilla plans to implement some additional protection mechanisms to tackle this issue.
"For improved protection, we are working on two-factor authentication in future beta versions," Adida said. Two-factor authentication requires something the user knows, like a password, and something the user has, like a hardware device or a mobile phone. Without having both of these elements, an attacker cannot gain access to an account.
- Securing Mobility, From Device to Network At one time, the process of managing and securing mobile devices and applications was fairly straightforward. Most organizations worried about one application (email)...
- Data Protection eGuide In this eGuide, CSO and sister publications IDG News Service, Computerworld, and CIO pull together news, trend, and how-to articles about the increasingly...
- Warning: Cloud Data at Risk Experts agree that relying on SaaS vendors to backup and restore your data is dangerous. Yet that's exactly what huge portions of the...
- The Opportunities and Challenges of the Cloud In this report F5 poses questions to IDC analysts, Sally Hudson and Phil Hochmuth, on behalf of F5's customers to better understand the...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!