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An absolute nightmare for an IT security professional is when protected data is accessed by unauthorized personnel. While passwords, firewalls and other basic protection methods are becoming easily ‘hackable’, organizations are seen shifting towards Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), which includes voice callbacks, SMSes and OTPs to combat the issue. MFA has been able to minimize associated risks to certain extent and has become a necessity. However, for strategic security management, the way ahead for enterprises is to protect their large data by implementing adaptive authentication.
MFA is the present, while adaptive authentication is the future. While MFA could help in tackling the security issue in the present scenario, enterprises looking at a long-term perspective need to focus on integrating adaptive authentication. For instance, establishing the identity of a user through a step-up OTP might not be the most ideal solution, as it is device-possession dependent. In such a scenario, adaptive authentication takes user and behavior context to the next level. It is based on a matrix of variables that provides a risk profile of a user, and based on this risk profile the system generates additional authentication process before the user is allowed access. While MFA could be a part of adaptive authentication process, the latter is much more intuitive and real-time, with factors such as knowledge-based questions, geo-location and identity assurance making the authentication process robust.
“Simple MFA is now moving away, paving way for adaptive authentication.” MFA is process driven, while adaptive authentication is dynamic and real-time. While MFA follows a set-pattern and has certain processes to be followed, with regards to adaptive authentication, the end-user is an integral part of the security process. Elements such as out-of-band (OOB) authentication through SMS or email, and knowledge-based authentication help in creating a dynamic security system, which is difficult to hack. For instance to control access of the employees to their floors or designated areas, the staff is provided with badges or biometrics that has only conditional access. In this scenario, accesses might be intuitive in nature and may deny entry to anyone based on attributes, such as frequency of their visit to a particular place or area.
It is also observed that progressive organizations are now discouraging use of MFA processes and not letting members or employees enter OTPs or passwords for executing even simple tasks. Sample this, a prominent retail shop introduced membership renewal process which is based on adaptive authentication—the system validates a customer through certain checks and balances—which is based on users’ shopping behavior in the past, along with other details. “The move is towards behavioral aspects of users rather than device-based simple passwords and OTPs.” MFA is usually password-dependent, while adaptive authentication follows more stringent identity verification. Adaptive authentication helps in setting up additional identity verification through various channels, including integrating hardware solutions such as biometrics. Although, biometrics would mean additional cost, it is worth the investment. Passwords are seen as the weakest link in any security system and backing it up with additional authentication, especially biometrics, ensures authorized access to the system. Furthermore, biometrics protects or minimizes risks against data breaches, cyber-attacks and fraud.
Although companies are often seen to shy away from integrating adaptive authentication due to the perception of budget hike, there are companies that are providing these products at an economical cost, with even the implementation pricing at a lower spectrum. Given the number of breaches that are occurring these days, safeguarding assets from theft should be the prime prerogative of organizations rather than saving cost. “It is better to invest in stringent verification methods than face possible data breach issues.” Adaptive authentication approaches access in a more intelligent way and aims at creating a fool-proof mechanism by layering risks checks through various attributes such as behavioral biometrics, geo-fencing, directory lookups, etc. The process of adaptive authentication discourages misuse of valid credentials, with access anomalies and failed authentication attempts being recorded and escalated.
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