Verizon eyes QR codes as authentication option

Summary:Can the QR code replace user names and passwords? Verizon Enterprise thinks so -- at least for some companies looking at two-factor authentication.

Verizon Enterprise on Tuesday is launching QR codes as a two-factor authentication option in its universal identity service. What's unclear is how many companies will see the handy QR code as a way to help eradicate user names and passwords.

The telecom giant developed a QR code login that would allow a customer or employee to scan a QR code on a website with their smartphone without a user name or password. User names and passwords are a major security issue since few people use two-factor authentication and most passwords are reused across multiple sites. The QR code would get people into accounts without passwords.

Here's how it works:

  • Customers could enroll for a Verizon Universal ID from a web page. 
  • After registering, the customer would download an app that would scan a dynamically generated QR code on a login page. 
  • Once a user scanned the code and Verizon confirmed the identity, he would be authenticated.
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Tracy Hulver, chief identity strategist for Verizon, noted that QR codes could be used as a sole way into a site or app or combined with a PIN code. At an ATM, a user could scan a QR code to tap funds instead of entering a PIN and risking a skimmer. Hulver said enterprises have been interested in QR codes as a way to ditch passwords, but are also looking at other options. 

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"A QR code is an option, but not the only one," said Hulver, who added that a QR code can be easy to use.

Should Verizon customers start using QR codes, one interesting aspect of this form of two-factor authentication would be ease of use. For instance, I scan QR codes, but infrequently. The extra click and opening of an app means I have to be motivated to get the information.

Meanwhile, the QR code setup means you have to have your phone with you at all times. Most of us always have a phone, but an online retailer could see a QR code as one more friction point in the buying process.

More:

Topics: Security, Verizon

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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