Intel Buys ID Security Firm PasswordBox

The deal for the startup bolsters Intel's security efforts and gives it another tool beyond passwords to help consumers protect online data.

IT security

Intel is bulking up its security and software capabilities with the acquisition of PasswordBox, a small ID management startup whose technology enables users to do such tasks as log into Websites without having to memorize their passwords and protect personal information online.

Intel officials announced the deal Dec. 1, adding that the PasswordBox business will be folded into the Safe Identity unit within Intel's Security Group. There have been more than 14 million downloads of the startup's technology, which lets users store their log-in information in a virtual lockbox. When a user wants to get into a Website or an app, he or she clicks on the site and the PasswordBox deals with the log-in process.

The software runs on both Apple iOS devices and those running Google's Android operating system.

It's another step in an effort by Intel to move the security industry beyond passwords, which have become a headache to users and a security risk for businesses, according to Intel officials.

"Everyone can relate to password fatigue," Chris Young, senior vice president and general manager of Intel Security Group, said in a statement. "The PasswordBox service has already brought relief to millions of consumers who now enjoy simple, instant login. Intel Security and PasswordBox share the same goal of improving digital identity protection across all devices and platforms."

No financial details about the acquisition were released.

PasswordBox was launched in July 2013 and has since grown to include 44 employees. In a Nov. 27 post on the company blog, PasswordBox officials reiterated Young's comments regarding a common goal between the two companies, and noted that joining Intel gives them access to a wide range of expertise, resources and support.

"The possibilities of what we can build tomorrow—and how many people's lives we can positively impact—are extraordinary," the officials wrote.

PasswordBox's technology includes log-in capabilities via the company's one-tap feature for mobile devices and one-click for Web browsers. Users won't see much change immediately, and Intel is offering new and existing customers a premium subscription for free, a deal that will last until Intel Security releases a new products, according to the PasswordBox officials.

The tech industry is investigating a broad array of password alternatives—such as biometrics and single sign-on—for security online. Intel for the past several years has been working to build up its security capabilities, including the $7.68 billion deal to buy McAfee in 2011. The chip maker in January launched Intel Security, which combined the McAfee unit with the security efforts already underway at Intel. In September, Intel hired Young, who previously had spent three years heading up Cisco Systems' security business.

Intel officials said the PasswordBox acquisition will offer a number of benefits to users, including reducing the security challenges and headaches caused by the large numbers of passwords that consumers are forced to remember. Young noted a 2013 report by Deloitte that predicted that last year, 90 percent of user-generated passwords would be vulnerable to hacking, and that "inadequate password protection may result in billions of dollars of losses, declining confidence in Internet transactions and significant damage to the reputations of the companies compromised by attacks."

Also in the report, Deloitte said that the 10,000 most common passwords would access almost 98 percent of all accounts.

In a blog post in May 2013 that laid out suggestions for creating more secure passwords, Intel and McAfee officials noted that 74 percent of Internet users use the same password for multiple sites, opening them up to even more dangers if the password is hacked. A report last year by information services firm Experian found that the average user had 26 password-protected online accounts but used an average of only five different passwords.

Other benefits of the PasswordBox deal will be greater simplicity for users, who now are pushed to create increasingly complex passwords, and future products that will help consumers protect their log-in credentials and personal information, Intel officials said.