Striving for Simple and Faster Authentication

By Steve Bell, Chief Technology Officer, Gallagher Security

Steve Bell, Chief Technology Officer, Gallagher Security

The advent of bankcards is one of the most familiar examples of two-factor authentication—where users were required to both possess a card and provide a linked PIN in order to complete a transaction. Multi-factor authentication has been used in the protection of high value assets for decades—ranging from artwork, to IP trade secrets, to hazardous materials—and could involve physical access control or logical (computer system) authentication. Governments have been aware of, and mandated, multi-factor authentication for many years. Currently, the risks to any organization are significantly higher with the prevalence of cyber hacking tools and increased social engineering attacks, such as phishing. Now, the momentum is increasing for multi-factor authentication and is increasingly being driven by the online world; for example, the security of online banking services. As a technology development and manufacturing business, we always have an eye on the market and maturing trends. One advantage for multi-factor within physical security is that it significantly improves an organization’s ability to protect against unauthorized access associated with lost or stolen access cards. Interest and demand for multi-factor solutions has risen steeply and we have seen a direct impact in the sizeable increase in sales of access control readers that can provide multi-factor authentication in a physical security sense.

Biometrics brings multi-factor to the masses

There are a number of reasons for the steady growth of multi-factor authentication and a key driver is the advances in biometrics. As biometric technology has become more affordable in recent years—with smart phones providing the capability for fingerprint and facial recognition—the ability to add additional layers of security has become more accessible than ever before. Businesses are able to implement physical security with multi-factor authentication to deliver higher security to areas across their site. From universities and airports to commercial buildings, site access is now much more than just an access card. There are a lot of multi-factor options available now: the traditional Card and PIN, card and standalone biometric, and mobile credential and mobile biometric. With cyber-crime at an all-time high, organizations are keen to move away from less-secure alternatives like PINs and passwords, and towards multi-factor authentication, including a user’s static biometric traits as one of the factors.

Organizations like the FIDO Alliance are working towards simpler, stronger authentication and the removal of passwords. As more people embrace mobile solutions for physical security, it is important that they look to independent bodies, like FIDO, to ensure they are choosing trusted, secure credentials that meet global authentication standards.

The future of multi-factor

Multi-factor authentication will continue to gather momentum and increase in popularity. We will see an increase in logical and physical access convergence, where the same authenticators are used for both logging onto a corporate IT network and accessing the company’s front door.

We also anticipate growth in risk-based authentication, where authentication factors vary depending on the user’s immediate risk profile. Things like a user’s location, failed authentication attempts, and unusual access attempt times may all feed into this risk profile, and prompt additional authentication factors where higher risk is identified.

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