What is Google Titan?

Screenshot 2019-04-02 at 12.11.40Google Titan is a set of physical security keys that can be used to keep your Google account secure.  Do you save your passwords, payment details or other personal information in your Google account?  Think about what you are keeping in Google Drive, does that make you a bit nervous?  If so, you are likely a candidate to use a lesser known type of authentication that uses physical keys in addition to your standard password.

Using Google Titan

After purchasing and registering the keys available from Yubico or Google, they can be used along with other 2-factor authentication schemes to log into your Google account.  So, like sending an SMS message with a code to your phone, or using Google Authenticator to provide a code, you can use the physical keys as a third alternative to providing access to your Google account from a new device or browser.

Using Google Titan with Advanced Protection

A more advanced and preferred way to use security keys is with a companion service Google calls Advanced Protection. Enabling Advanced Protection requires physical security keys and does two things.

  1. It logs you out of access to all devices and Chrome browsers.
  2. It revokes all other forms of 2-factor authentication. 

In other words, the physical keys are the only way to log into your Google account using a new device or Chrome browser with Advanced Protection enabled.

How does it all work

This can be a bit confusing to the uninitiated.  But to sum up, using Titan keys without Advanced Protection is not any different from other 2-factor authentication and can be enabled along with other 2-factor schemas.  The real security from Titan keys is using them with Advanced Protection.

So like me, you likely have some questions.  Let me try to answer those that I had as simply as possible.

Can I use the Titan keys with my Chromebook and Android phone?
Yes, the Titan keys, with or without Advanced Protection, will work with any Chrome OS device, the Chrome browser used with devices running other operating systems and your Android smartphone.

With Advanced Protection turned on, will I need the physical keys for every login?
No, the keys are only required for the initial login to Google on a device or browser, and in the event of a system reset, e.g. power washing your Chromebook.  When you enable Advanced Protection you will be advised that every device and browser will be automatically logged out of your Google account so each will need to be logged back in using the physical key.

Is there any charge for the Advanced Protection service?
No, you will have to purchase security keys to use the system, but there is no initial or recurring charge for AP.

Can I disable Advanced Protection and unregister the keys if I decide not to use these security mechanisms?
Yes, so long as you are still logged into a device or browser you can go to https://account.google.com and disable Advanced Protection, and you can unregister keys in Chrome settings.

Can I still access my Google account from my smart TV to access Google services like Youtube or Youtube TV?
Yes, however, you will need to log into your Google account from those devices again, using your smartphone.  You will need to login to your smartphone first using the physical key as your smartphone will be used to login to your Google account from your TV.

Will my Google assistant devices like Google Home and mini still work?
Yes, they will, however, you may need to scan for and re-enable some smart home devices from the Google Home app on your smartphone in order to get everything working again.

You can learn more and obtain Google Titan keys at Titan Security Key Bundle from the Google Store.

Please let me know if you have other questions that I might be able to answer by leaving a comment below, and thanks for reading.  J

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What to do with an Aging Computer?

NeverWare CloudReady to the Rescue

Recently I was asked by my daughter what she could do to get a malware ridden iMac running again. After taking a look, the damage was extensive including browser and search hijacking, a hacker placed password on the firmware to prevent normal reinstallation of the OS and who knows what else. I used Macs for a decade before moving to Chrome OS and I’ve never seen malware like this on OS X. I used to tell people that they didn’t need any virus protection on a Mac because malware on OS X just didn’t happen. Obviously, those days are over. In reality, this looked more like something I’ve seen on a Windows machine.

Since my daughter has two, nearly teenage kids (read malware magnets), I thought I would recommend something different. After asking a few questions about the family’s use of the device, I recommended that we get rid of OS X in favor of Chromium. Her family was already using Chromebooks for most of their mobile computing needs so it was a fairly easy choice to make. I had her try out her mom’s iMac that had been repurposed to run Chromium some time ago and she thought that would work.

My wife’s 10 year old iMac, while it didn’t contain any malware that I know of, had slowed to a crawl, and was unusable until I replaced the operating system on the device with Chromium. That was 18 months ago and the device flies and has been problem free ever since. The best part is that she and I can both log in with our Google accounts and everything looks the same as on our primary Chromebook devices.

While Chromium is an open source operating system, it is nearly identical to Chrome OS. And the easiest way to get this open source OS installed is with Neverware CloudReady. Don’t let the home page scare you, for personal use on your home computer, this software is completely free.

Preparing for the OS Change

There are just a few things that must be done before a decision can be finalized, and moving on to the installation process can begin.

  • Ensure that your device, Windows, Mac or Linux is supported for use with Chromium. This is easy to do by looking for your hardware listed by manufacturer and model at https://guide.neverware.com/supported-devices/ Just like all Chrome OS devices there is also an end of life date provided for each model. This tells you how long Chromium updates will be provided for your device. Neverware says that CloudReady is certified to run on more than 200 of the most common PC and Mac models.
  • If you don’t already have one, sign up for a free Google account at https://accounts.google.com/signup
  • Purchase an 8gb or 16gb usb flash drive. While there are many comments online about SanDisk drives not working, I’ve always had good luck with the SanDisk Cruzer Glide 16gb, less than $8 at Walmart. You will always have better luck with a new drive fresh out of its packaging instead of repurposing a used drive.
  • If you are installing on a Mac desktop computer, a Windows keyboard will work much better than the Apple keyboard that came with the computer. If you don’t have a keyboard that you can repurpose, a great inexpensive keyboard and mouse combo is the Logitech Desktop MK120 wired combo, available at Amazon and Best Buy as of this writing for less than $15 bucks.
  • Final prep is to look at everything on the computer if it is functional, and back up photos, purchased music, documents, email, etc. before moving forward. It will be easier to move these files to Google Drive and Photos before you reinstall the OS, but at least ensure they are backed up to some cloud or other area that is accessible to you.

Moving on to the Installation

Rather than regurgitate the Neverware Cloud Ready intructions in this post, let me just direct you to the source at https://www.neverware.com/freedownload

These instructions will lead you through downloading and installing the CloudReady USB installer, and provide step by step instructions to complete the installation. Note, it is very important to follow each step in order to ensure a successful installation.

Some, like me, find it easier if we can watch someone else perform the installation first. Thanks to Robby and our friends over at ChromeUnboxed.com, you can do just that by reviewing the video at https://chromeunboxed.com/install-chrome-os-on-your-old-laptop-pc-or-macbook/

Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments below if you have questions. J

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