DOWN WITH THE DONGLE

The security dongle is a little thing that plugs into your computer to prevent anyone but its rightful owner from getting into a program or computer. They’ve been around for many years, and hardly anybody likes them. Companies hate the small extra cost for the dongle pieces, and people often lose them.

An alternative solution is a phone call.¬†PhoneFactor.com¬†offers a free service that authenticates the user’s right to access a file or computer by calling the user on the phone. When someone logs onto what is supposed to be a secure system, PhoneFactor calls a landline or cell phone number and the person answering the call must press the “pound” sign to authenticate himself.

It’s not a completely fool-proof system, but anyone trying to get into a system using someone else’s password would also have to have the other person’s telephone. As so many companies do when providing something for free, PhoneFactor makes its money by offering extra services. For instance, if you get one of those verification calls that someone is logging onto your secure files or machine — and you know it’s not you, because you’re not at the computer — you can instruct PhoneFactor personnel to call someone at your company’s security department. Or, you can do it yourself, without paying an extra fee.

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