Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Per Cent

Apple power adapters could remember your passwords

Paul Marks, senior technology correspondent

Apple has worked out a way in which the power cords for computers or smartphones can help people recover their forgotten login passwords - or the answers to secret questions (like "what was the name of your first pet?") that are often used to recover them. But crucially, Apple's system does this in a way that's designed to prevent anybody who steals the laptop or smartphone from recovering the password.
The technology is predicated on the fact that when you lose a laptop, or have it stolen, you don't tend to lose the power adapter as well. So it makes the power adapter a critical part of the recovery routine for forgotten passwords.In US patent filing 2012/0005747 Apple proposes a power adapter whose transformer unit has a small memory module built into it. This stores either an encrypted password (or recovery question) whose key is stored on the laptop or smartphone. This way only the correct computer or phone can access the recovery data. For added security, part of the encrypted password could reside on a network server, too.There's a clear need for this, says Apple: "If the password is not easily and conveniently recoverable, the consumer is likely to choose either not to use a password at all or to use a trivial password. Both choices increase the threat of data loss," it says in the patent.Of course, once the bad guys know the adapter is important, they'll steal that too if it's available - but Apple suggests further security can be added by storing some of the password recovery data in other (not generally mobile) peripherals, like printers and Wi-Fi routers, too.
Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmarks12

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