Passwords are 60, time for them to go

Issue 3 2021 Access Control & Identity Management, Cyber Security

It has been 60 years since passwords were first used at MIT and if the number of breaches in the news are anything to go by, we are no more adept at managing our passwords than we were in 1961. But while passwords are being phased out, IT leaders can fortunately rely on authentication technology that will protect their valuable data without destroying the user experience.

Gerhard Oosthuizen.

As more companies have adopted cloud computing and more recently, remote working, the need to protect data has become significantly more important. For companies transacting online, the need to protect their customers is higher still. However, setting up security roadblocks that slow down the user experience will cause irritation and potentially lose valuable customers.

“Protecting users while keeping fraudsters out has become one of the most critical duties for today’s CIO. Finding the right balance between great user experience and strong authentication in a low-friction environment has become the holy grail in security circles,” says Gerhard Oosthuizen, chief technology officer at Entersekt.

Passwords just don’t cut it

According to Verizon’s annual security report, compromised credentials are still the most often used asset (80%) when it comes to data breaches. Despite the glaring evidence of just how at risk we are, most people resist making use of password managers and according to Oosthuizen, still have terrible password habits.

“We all now have hundreds of accounts that require passwords. The chances are we each have around four or five that we simply recycle. One which we only use for our bank account, one or two that we use for our various social media accounts and one which we use for everything else.

Our ‘recover password’ information is also easily cracked, so that is of little use - especially if we answer honestly. A simple search will give you a person’s mother’s maiden name, the name of their first pet and let’s be honest, the majority of us will answer pizza if asked for our favourite food. Passwords are passé,” Oosthuizen states.

When the weaknesses of password-based authentication started to become known, many organisations introduced two-factor authentication. One popular implementation that is still common today is SMS one-time PIN or password (OTP) technology. While it does add an extra layer of protection, Oosthuizen points out that this often comes with a big dose of user friction and it’s by no means foolproof.

“Today the biggest challenge with OTPs is that the technology does not really protect against modern attacks. Criminals have found many workarounds such as SIM-swap and man-in-the-middle attacks.”

Stronger security, better experiences

More robust technologies like mobile push authentication have now replaced SMS OTPs as the industry standard in authentication. Unlike SMS OTPs, authentication messages delivered via push messaging technology are truly out of band. “This means that you don’t rely on the same channel to deliver authentication requests and responses that was used to initiate the original, potentially fraudulent, transaction,” Oosthuizen explains.

In addition to the stronger security provided by technologies like push-based authentication, they also offer a far greater user experience. The user receives the full request on their trusted mobile app and can approve it from there. They no longer have to wait for an OTP to arrive and copy it or remember it and then enter it, frequently having to switch between apps to do so. It’s all about leveraging the user’s device to create a strong device identity and making authentication experiences as seamless as possible. And today you can use the biometric sensor on a device to completely eradicate the use of passwords, while increasing security.

“We use the end-user’s digital device to help authenticate them. Our certificate-based device ID technology ensures that only your own trusted device can be used and if you combine that with biometrics, it prevents you from having to enter a password or an OTP. This enables a truly passwordless experience, Oosthuizen explains. “So the passwordless future has arrived. That should make all those CIOs smile.”

Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Control from anywhere
Issue 3 2021 , Access Control & Identity Management
From the flexibility of managing security from any location to the convenience of using a smart phone in place of an access card, Gallagher delivers user-friendly technology, underpinned by the strongest security.

Facial recognition advances
CCTV Handbook 2021, Suprema, IDEMIA , ZKTeco, Technews Publishing , Access Control & Identity Management
Reliable facial biometrics is still in the domain of access control, but integration with surveillance technologies is fast becoming a reality.

Blockchain used for strong identity and authentication
Issue 3 2021 , Access Control & Identity Management
1Kosmos BlockID digital identity solution approved as NIST 800-63-3 conformant and FIDO2 certified, powered by advanced biometrics and a private blockchain.

NeoFace Watch Thermal improves health and safety
Issue 3 2021 , Access Control & Identity Management
NeoFace Watch Thermal protects organisations, their customers and employees through contactless monitoring and management of COVID-19 protocols, providing real-time dashboards and process automation in a cost-effective solution that keeps people safe.

Linking HR and security
Issue 3 2021, iFacts , Access Control & Identity Management
Employee screening is implemented to ensure the risk of the company is managed and fraudsters do not enter the workplace, but the results of the vetting are not often linked to other areas in the business.

Smart entrance control technologies
Issue 3 2021 , Access Control & Identity Management
An important part of physical security systems, entrance control has gained even greater prominence on the security agenda in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multi-credential flexibility
Issue 3 2021, Suprema , Access Control & Identity Management
Suprema CoreStation is an intelligent door controller which provides biometric-enabled security over a centralised access control system and can store up to 500 000 users with a fingerprint-matching speed of up to 400 000 matches per second.

Manage multiple sites with Paxton10
Issue 3 2021, Paxton , Access Control & Identity Management
Thomas Faith, the Paxton10 product manager, discusses how installers and end-users can now benefit from Multi-site management functionality release in a recent update from Paxton.

Thwarting data theft
Issue 3 2021, Astra Fasteners , Access Control & Identity Management
Special care must be taken to secure customer data in computer centres in shared facilities with a high level of data and people traffic, where identification, organisation and control are non-negotiable.

Axis Camera Station Secure Entry
Issue 3 2021, Axis Communications SA , Access Control & Identity Management
Axis Camera Station now includes access control management, allowing users to visually identify visitors or get automatic alerts in case of incidents; and the same operator can monitor the video and the access control.