How has identity evolved in the digital world? What kind of changes can we expect in the next decade?
The way that we think of our identity has changed more in the last decade than ever before in human history. Long gone are the days when a wax seal and signet ring were deemed proof of authentic identity, and now even the likes of passports and driving licenses have technology embedded within them.
As the world became more tech and digitally dependent the idea of identity had to be rethought for a digital age. The physical proof provided by documents you could actually reach out and touch became defunct as identities moved online: thus began the rise in importance of the password. Unfortunately as our lives became more intertwined with the Internet, so too evolved a new type of threat – the cybercriminal – with increasingly intricate ways of plying their trade.
It’s now almost universally recognized that the standard password is nearly as redundant as the medieval wax seal; yet the question remains – how do we effectively protect our digital identities against an increasing number of online threats?
At present we are on the cusp of something that could change our lives as much as the industrial revolution changed the lives of 18th century Europeans – the next ten years will truly be the dawn of the Internet of Things and Machine-2-Machine (M2M) communications. Gartner and IDC anticipate close to 212 billion connected ‘things’ will be in circulation by 2020 and as this space evolves and matures I anticipate that this will be the next challenge we need to brace ourselves for.
With the increase of the IoT the emphasis over the next decade will shift from the basic ‘cyber security’ argument to a more all-encompassing view; revolving around how we actually secure our lives and actions rather than simply an online identity. As a result of this I believe that there is a need for an identity-centric economy to emerge.
What is the main catalyst behind authentication innovation today?
There are three key areas I feel are driving authentication innovation today; some are human factors and others are technology related.
First and not least in importance is the role of human nature. It has always been natural for human beings to strive to advance, innovate and improve on that which has come before them and that is still the same today.
The last decade has seen a marked change in the relationship between employee and employer and the second catalyst is born directly from this social sea-change that has occurred. As initiatives like BYOD, remote working and employee empowerment took off so too did the speed at which device manufacturers and employers were required to combat the new challenges they faced. This inadvertently led to an acceleration of innovation in the authentication space (and a great many others) too.
Finally, as technology advanced both at corporate (cloud, virtualization, etc.) and consumer level, so too did the sophistication of cybercriminals. It is often the case that when confronted with difficulties we evolve the quickest and I certainly see the rise of cybercrime as a prime motivator for innovation in this area as well.