Google offers free replacement for buggy Titan Security Keys

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Google is offering a free replacement for the Bluetooth edition of its Titan Security Key. Sarah Tew CNET

The recall comes after the company became aware of a security issue which could allow a nearby hacker to hijack the security device.

"This security issue does not affect the primary goal of security keys, which is to protect you against phishing by a remote attacker", the company said in a blog post.

However, Google announced yesterday that a major flaw in the Bluetooth Low Energy version of the Titan Security Key opens the small devices (and those using them) to attack. It allows a so-called Man in The Middle (MiTM) attack, in which someone could get between your Titan key and the device it's communicating with.

"After you've used your key to sign into your Google account on your device, immediately unpair it". Indeed, Google says that these issues don't affect the primary objective of security keys - defending against remote attackers - and that they don't apply to USB or NFC keys.

This vulnerability is hard to exploit, the company said, and would require an outsider to already have obtained a victim's username and password to access their account.

Feitian Technologies BLE security keys - sold for Google's Advanced Protection Program prior to the Titan-branded models - share this flaw and are also eligible for replacement. Due to a misconfiguration in the Bluetooth pairing protocols, an attacker physically close to the key can use your security key to (a) communicate with your security key, or (b) communicate with the device to which your key is paired. "After that, [the hacker] could attempt to change their device to appear as a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse and potentially take actions on your device", Brand said.

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While you're awaiting a replacement key, however, there are steps you can take to mitigate your risk, depending on whether you're using an iOS or Android Device. If your Titan Security Key has a "T1" or "T2" on the back, it is affected and you can get a free replacement by visiting this website. Google warns that even a key with a security bug is safer than using no key at all.

If you're using one of Google's Titan Bluetooth Security Keys to sign into all your two-factor protected accounts, there's good news and bad news.

"The fact you must be within 30 feet of the security key isn't an issue, especially when you consider how fast compiled and scripted software can run".

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to note Google is not recalling the product, but offering free replacements. The key uses BLE to connect with your computer or mobile device and send it the secret.

It's the most robust form of defense against phishing, one of the most common attacks meant to steal your password, giving hackers access to your account and data. That person could then intercept communications from the key and use them to sign in as you. After you've used your key to sign into your Google Account on your device, immediately unpair it. "You can use your key in this manner again while waiting for your replacement, until you update to iOS 12.3", Google said. You will need to sign into your Google account when you access the site to claim your replacement.

It also affects Feitian BLE security keys.

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