July 18, 2017 By Larry Loeb 2 min read

Google will make a major change next week to its two-step verification (2SV) policy that will eliminate an older method that left users at risk.

While the previous method sent one-time codes via short messaging service (SMS), which was reported by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as being fundamentally insecure, the new 2SV procedure will prevent malicious actors from hijacking phone sessions to gain SMS codes.

The New Two-Step Verification Process

Two-step verification adds the requirement of supplying information that Google sends to the user in real time to establish a session. That information may be delivered through an SMS message, voice call or mobile app.

With the old process, the user typically typed in a password string sent over SMS to complete a login. However, in the new method, simply tapping a button displayed on the user’s smartphone will allow the process to move forward. Also displayed will be geographic location, time and name of the device attempting the login. The user will be expected to pay attention to this information and alert Google of any discrepancies.

User Requirements

Legacy methods will still be available to users in case of compatibility problems. Google users must be currently enrolled in the 2SV program to be included in the new changes. Bleeping Computer added that iOS users must have the Google Search app installed on their devices to see the 2SV login prompts. The new method also requires a smartphone that is connected to the internet, which may be problematic for users who rely on classic phone network connectivity.

Those who connect by using a security key, which plugs into a computer’s USB port for 2SV, may not feel the new method will add any security benefits. Google agrees with this view, and those users will not be asked to join this upgrade program.

Google deserves credit for attempting to increase 2SV security in the face of the NIST criticism. This is one way to make insecure password logins a thing of the past — without introducing new types of insecurities.

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