ID theft has increased by 500% since 1999 and now costs the UK economy £1.3bn a year, forcing defences against this crime to evolve rapidly. In the past few years this has led to the emergence of smart card-based integrated authentication networks.
Identity security has developed beyond the simplest form of authentication where one party issues and verifies identities within a closed group of users. While easy to do, this approach is extremely hard and costly to scale upwards and offers no interoperability with other authentication networks.
As such, a more common technique being used widely today is the use of a federated identity network. This allows individuals to use one form of identity to authenticate themselves to a range of different organisations. As such, an individual could use one username/password, token/PIN, digital certificate/passcode issued by one organisation for authenticating themselves to a completely different organisation.
This approach solves many of the problems associated with the closed group identity security approach. For a start, the enormous investment involved in issuing digital certificates on smart cards, for example, can be recouped to some extent, by deriving revenue from allowing other organisations to authenticate their users with the same identity.
There are, however, significant challenges with this approach. Central to this is the level of trust that must be given by an organisation using another organisation’s authentication network. Essentially, an organisation that is joining another’s authentication network must have confidence in the checks that have been carried out to guarantee the identity of the user. Privacy laws have further compounded this as one organisation is unlikely to be able to share any meaningful information with another organisation to prove that these checks are robust. Therefore the ability to use a federated identity approach in a highly scalable environment is limited because of the levels of risk involved in relying upon the work of the issuing organisation.
It is for this reason that a new integrated identity approach has emerged in the last two to three years. In this approach the focus is on a single application being used at the hub of the authentication network which allows all participating organisations to be issuers.
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