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Google’s Project Abacus To Replace Traditional Passwords With Trust Score

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We all know Google is too stringent when it comes to security. They are continuously hunting to find alternatives to passwords for a while now. With this objective, Google has recently announced at I/O last week about their plans to replace passwords with trust API i.e ‘trust scores’.

It’s been a while that Google is trying to make security tighter. This is evident from the company’s latest attempt to replace lengthy codes by creating a measure of trust in your phone, and that attempt will soon be completed.

What Is Trust API?

Trust scores incorporate various data points related to users in order to determine if they are legitimate or not. The Trust API is the result of Google engineers’ year-long work on password and it is rolling out to ‘several very large’ financial institutions in the next few weeks.

“Assuming it goes well, this should become available to every Android developer around the world by the end of the year,” Dan Kaufman, head of ATAP, Google

The feature, Trust Score goes on to compare user’s typing method, current location, voice and even face recognition. These user-specific data points help in taking security to a next level.

Different apps could require different scores. For instance, a banking app might want a higher trust score as compared to that of what Instagram needs.

How Trust API works?

Trust API actively runs in the background of users’ devices, tracking its sensors and information so as to provide apps with the current Trust Score. Basically, it is the confidence level you are the owner of the device. It works on a combination of applied science that will recognize user signals like the way you talk, walk, type etc.  This new technology by Google’s ATAP team plans to make it live soon.Source:

Different level of Trust Score is required for different apps. For instance, a government app may require a higher Trust Score than a social media app like Twitter or a game app. There is a direct correlation between Trust Score and access to the cellular device. Higher the Trust Score more is the access you will get.

“We have a phone, and these phones have all these sensors in them. Why couldn’t it just know who I was, so I don’t need a password? I should just be able to work” Kaufman

There will be no need to type a password to unlock something. Traditional password method is a gone thing now.

Project Abacus

Mention about Project was made one year ago during Google I/O 2015. The company had announced that it was working on a new way of authenticating Android Smartphones.

The aim of Project Abacus is to remove PIN and password authentication and it replace it with biometrics. Therefore, the users will now be able to unlock devices as well as sign into applications on the basis of a ‘Trust Score’ which will be calculated taking into consideration various factors as discussed above.Source:

The status of Project Abacus was discussed at Google I/O 2016 by Daniel Kaufman, unit chief of Google’s ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects).

Previous Security Attempts

Smart Lock

Google implemented a somewhat similar technology on devices with Android 5.0 and above. This technology was called Smart Lock which unlocked the device automatically when users are in a trusted location, has a secure Bluetooth device connected or on trusted Wi-Fi network or on recognition of user’s facial characteristics.

Project Abacus is the next level of Smart Lock. This is because Project Abacus runs in the background, continuously collecting data using sensors from the phone. If the trust score is low, apps could get back to asking users for their password.

Two-Factor Authentication

This is another method which secures your device by generating a unique PIN via SMS message or an email. Undoubtedly, it is a highly secured method but it is time-consuming too.

The problem with passwords is that people don’t remember them and because of this they tend to use simpler passwords. Well, the bigger problem is most of us use the same password for multiple accounts which makes it easily accessible to hackers/attackers.

Google’s efforts focus on making things simpler for us and they are more secure than present-day standards.

Testing ‘Trust API’

The testing at banks will begin next month. If the results come out as expected, it will be distributed to Android developers by the end of this year. A new way of securing content and applications could be offered as apps could automatically lock even if someone else gets access inside the phone. This technology is already under testing at over 30 universities in the US and will soon be tested by several big companies.Source:

This technology is already under testing at over 30 universities in the US and will soon be tested by several big companies. Well, this seems to be promising research!


With Trust API, only device owners will be able to access their devices and the data in those devices. The two-step verification and fingerprint scanners could be a gone thing very soon after Abacus will be famous.

Google’s efforts towards making things simpler are appreciable but at the same time, it is risky. There is a likelihood that privacy campaigners as Abacus do offer powerful security but it will require sensitive data which could fall in the wrong hands can be disastrous for smartphone users.

As of now, Google has not specified if Abacus will be a part of Android N which will be launched at the end of this summer.

Are you looking forward to Project Abacus? Are there any loopholes with Trust API?

Sakshi is a content marketer during the day and a reader by night. She writes content sprinkled with a twisted imagination. She has done her graduation in psychology from Delhi University and has an insane love for history.

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