So what’s the answer? There are a large number of alternative technologies that exist in the marketplace including hardware tokens, authenticator apps for smartphones, SMS verification, biometrics and many more. So why have we not seen greater widespread use of these technologies? One of the biggest challenges for businesses has been mapping their authentication needs across a diverse user population against the technology available in the marketplace.
If we look at the different options available for companies today, they share many common factors. Typically they offer proprietary approaches to solving the username/password conundrum. Companies will have to consider their user population as a single, homogenous entity if they want to roll out strong authentication, as they will have to invest in infrastructure, back-end management tools, client distribution and end-user education. This approach stifles innovation, as it makes it too costly for companies to roll out newer technologies to better anticipate customer needs.
What’s missing is not another authentication technology, it’s a common infrastructure to allow backed systems to use different solutions based on business risk. This is the problem that the FIDO Alliance is focused on solving by establishing wide, industry standards that provide a framework for innovation.
This industry alliance was formally announced back in February with six founding members – Lenovo, Infineon, PayPal, Nok Nok Labs, Agnitio and Validity Sensors. Their ambition is to deliver a standardized authentication protocol which supports different authentication technologies including biometric capabilities such as voice, face and fingerprint recognition, as well as USB tokens, Trusted Platform Modules (TPMs) and traditional One Time Passphrase (OTP) tokens.
The fundamental principle is that relying parties, such as banks or e-commerce sites, should be able to leverage the capabilities present on their customers chosen devices that meet the risk associated with a transaction. This ensures that they are not trapped in a specific authentication ‘silo,’ but are able to be flexible to new customer requirements.
Since the launch of the FIDO Alliance, we have seen significant momentum in the marketplace. Google, NXP and CrucialTec have joined as board members, and the overall membership has more than doubled with significant representation from device manufacturers and authentication vendors. This growth is noteworthy as it shows the demand for a standards-based approach to solving modern authentication challenges.
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