AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint rally behind ZenKey for authentication

It appears that U.S. mobile operators’ quest to get rid of passwords in favor of a more streamlined but secure authentication process is moving into a new phase. Details won’t be unveiled until MWC Los Angeles later this month, but ZenKey is the stand-alone entity taking over what was known as Project Verify.

The Mobile Authentication Taskforce, comprised of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, debuted its solution at MWC-A a year ago, saying their ultimate goal was to eliminate the need for customers to enter passwords to access information from their phones. In today's announcement, the Mobile Authentication Taskforce said it will announce the next phase of the ZenKey mobile authentication platform at MWC Los Angeles. 

According to a spokesperson for the taskforce, ZenKey is U.S.-only now, as it’s being developed by the four major U.S. carriers. The carriers are jointly delivering technology needed to help prevent fraudsters from taking over online accounts through unauthorized access.

Purpose-built for trusted access via connected consumer devices, the technology uses layers of authentication and authorization factors, including unique network signals, to not only verify a user’s device but also allow verification that the user is who they say they are. 

“ZenKey is different from other authentication solutions in that it is a network-based solution that uses an array of attributes, including data derived from carrier networks, that is not accessible to someone just because they have your user name and password,” the spokesperson told FierceWireless via email. “We have stronger authentication capabilities with network-based SIM authentication vs. technology built into the device itself.”

Other authentication apps prove possession of the device—if someone leaves their phone unattended or loses their phone and its apps, any accounts secured by these apps may be at risk. But, ZenKey layers on top an optional PIN or biometric. It will stop functioning on the old phone if the user cancels their line or reports their phone lost or stolen.

 RELATED: Big 4 carriers are still testing Project Verify for mobile ID authentication

ZenKey is going to let app developers and service providers integrate its technology so that service providers can authenticate their customers more effectively and securely with methods like biometric verification.

“As a service provider to the carrier community for over 10 years, LiveXLive has worked hand-in-hand with the members of the Taskforce to optimize the mobile experience for our users,” said Robert Ellin, chairman and CEO of LiveXLive, in a statement. ”ZenKey allows us to collaborate once again to streamline the mobile user registration and subscription multi-factor process while enhancing the security and data privacy of consumers on our next generation streaming platform.”

The new details about ZenKey will be demonstrated at MWC Los Angeles, which takes place Oct. 22-24, and Money 2020, which is set for Oct. 27-30 in Las Vegas; development specifications will available to developers then.