BlackBerry Joins FIDO Online Authentication Alliance

The FIDO protocol will support a range of authentication technologies, including biometrics such as fingerprint scanners, voice and facial recognition.

Struggling smartphone manufacturer BlackBerry has joined the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) Alliance, an industry consortium focused on online authentication through standards-based specifications, and has been appointed to the Board of Directors.

The FIDO protocol will support a full range of authentication technologies, including biometrics such as fingerprint scanners, voice and facial recognition, as well as existing solutions and communications standards, such as Trusted Platform Modules (TPM), USB Security Tokens, Near Field Communication (NFC), One Time Passwords (OTP), embedded Secure Elements (eSE), and many other existing and future technology options.

"BlackBerry is deeply committed to remaining the gold standard in mobile security while providing a model for others to adopt and follow," Brian McBride, technical director for identity at BlackBerry, said in a statement. "Offering safe, reliable access for our customers across the globe is inherent to everything BlackBerry does as an organization. We are both excited and proud to join the FIDO Alliance to help extend mobile security best practices and standards to the global community as the alliance strives to achieve universal secure authentication."

As a member of the FIDO alliance, which was formed in July 2012, companies commit to share technology and collaborate to deliver open specifications for universal strong authentication that enables FIDO-compliant authentication methods to be interoperable, more secure and private, and easier to use.

A recent report by IT research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast an already strong authentication market would realize more than $2.2 billion in revenues alone by 2016. This demand will be driven by social networking, Internet, cloud and mobile, all of which will require higher and higher levels of authentication by governments, corporations and consumers, the report said.

The open protocol is designed to be extensible and to accommodate future innovation, as well as protect existing investments. The FIDO protocol allows the interaction of technologies within a single infrastructure, enabling security options to be tailored to the distinct needs of each user and organization. Additional members include Google, NXP and CrucialTec, which have joined the alliance’s Board of Directors, as well as founding board members Lenovo, Nok Nok Labs, PayPal and Validity.

"We welcome BlackBerry to the FIDO Alliance board as one of the world’s leading mobile platforms and mobile device providers. BlackBerry’s addition to the FIDO Alliance moves the mobile industry closer to universal strong authentication using the open FIDO specifications that embrace all use cases," Michael Barrett, FIDO Alliance president, said in a statement. "We also prize BlackBerry among the Internet’s leading relying parties, with the potential to allow millions of users to utilize open strong authentication."

The announcement comes as rumors are gathering that the beleaguered company is going to be sold—and sooner rather than later. The Wall Street Journal reported that members of BlackBerry’s board have put the auction process on the fast track and a sale could be completed as early as November.

MDB Capital Group CEO Chris Marlett told AllThingsD that while a consortium pitching in with a cross-licensing deal might be willing to pay between $2 billion to $3 billion, a single buyer might pay more.

"BlackBerry still has a good enterprise and global footprint," Martlett said, according to an Aug. 14 report. "Someone like Microsoft could justify paying $4 billion to $5 billion for the business, and $4 billion to $5 billion for the IP, which would yield an $8 billion to $10 billion purchase price."