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LaunchKey Raises $750,000 to Abolish Passwords

LaunchKey

Today, Las Vegas startup LaunchKey announced $750,000 in seed funding led by the VegasTechFund and including Kima Ventures, Ludlow Ventures, and Prolific VC.

LaunchKey aims to secure your accounts online while abolishing passwords. For websites that have a LaunchKey login, you just enter your email, click the LaunchKey button, and get a notification sent to your phone. From there, you can approve or block the login – a similar idea to Google’s two-step verification. It takes a tad longer than entering a password, but aims to be many tads more secure.

“We have to move past and evolve past this juvenile system of passwords,” says cofounder and CEO Geoff Sanders, who cofounded the company with Devin Egan and Yo Sub Kwon. “I think I used passcodes to let people into my treehouse when I was a kid, and we still do the same thing to allow people to sign into secure systems around the world.”

LaunchKey is currently in private beta, working with a limited number of users and websites. Conceived at Startup Weekend in July, they plan to launch publicly in March and open up their software for any website to add LaunchKey logins. They will use today’s funding to hire iOS and Android developers, and find office space in Las Vegas.

A slew of recent events have highlighted the vulnerability of passwords. Some LinkedIn passwords were compromised in June. Thousands of Yahoo! passwords were hacked in July. Wired author Mat Honan had his Apple, Twitter, and Gmail accounts hacked in August, and the hackers deleted all the documents, messages, and photos from his Apple devices. After that incident, he wrote a piece on Wired called “Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore.”

The problem with a string of characters, says Sanders – besides being hackable – is that you enter it elsewhere, on a website on the Internet. What that means is, as with door codes on cars, someone could be trying to break in without you knowing. LaunchKey solves that problem by notifying you of login attempts in real time.

For added layers of protection, you can use “geo-fencing” to mark off a certain radius where you’ll be logging in from (say, your home or work or city), and prevent anyone outside that radius from getting in. You can also “lock” your account, so no logins can occur – say, when you’re sleeping or on vacation. And LaunchKey displays a list of all the accounts you’re currently logged into, and lets you log out of them all at once.

LaunchKey itself requires no password; it links to your device when you download the app. If you happen to lose your phone, you can de-link it from your account using another device. All these measures try to increase security to a maximum, so LaunchKey could be feasible for corporations and government. In fact, it was the government that inspired the name: for security, two people were required to turn “launch keys” simultaneously to launch a nuclear weapon. It’s a fitting inspiration after a year of privacy scares and password leaks.

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About the Author
kira@techcocktail.com'

Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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5 Responses to “LaunchKey Raises $750,000 to Abolish Passwords”

  1. macintier@hotmail.com'

    Samuel

    Just a point, here: each of those examples were cases of poor security *procedures*, not indicators of the vulnerability of passwords in and of themselves. LinkedIn, for instance, left themselves vulnerable to infiltration and did absolutely nothing to protect its users’ passwords, storing them in plain text, so they were compromised very easily. Passwords in and of themselves are absolutely not the problem. The problem is when people pick weak passwords, the services they use implement poor or no security measures to protect their data (a problem which is equally dangerous whether passwords are used or not), when users leave around too many clues regarding what their passwords might be, if services offer too many/too permissive of workarounds to obtain and/or reset the account’s password, etc. But combine good security policy with a strong password, and your information will be very, very, very safe.

    “The problem with a string of characters, says Sanders – besides being hackable – is that you enter it elsewhere, on a website on the Internet.”
    It’s crackable, not hackable. You don’t hack a password. You crack it.

    “What that means is, as with door codes on cars, someone could be trying to break in without you knowing.”
    This completely ignores the notion of encrypted data transmission, such as SSL/TLS or VPN, or even your local wireless security like WPA2, all of which make such interception, for all intents and purposes, practically impossible, if not at the very least highly improbable.

    “LaunchKey solves that problem by notifying you of login attempts in real time.”
    Frankly, the “problem” you mentioned immediately before this sentence should logically apply equally so to LaunchKey. I would bet they, too, make certain all the data they transmit is kept under a tight lock, but you cna protect passwords in the exact same way. LaunchKey also isn’t going to protect you against the #1 threat to your privacy and security, which is poor security policy and implementation. You’re still at the mercy of the website to actually take measures to protect your data.

    LaunchKey is a nice idea, but I would rather it implement a true multifactor authentication method involving its service as described here *and* passwords.

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