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SafeNet 2014 Predictions: Multi-Factor Authentication Trends for 2014

VMblog 2014 Prediction Series

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2014.  Read them in this series exclusive.

Contributed article by Doron Cohen, CTO of the Authentication Business Unit at SafeNet, Inc.

Multi-Factor Authentication Trends for 2014

I have been in the Identity Management and Authentication business for more than two decades and the shift I am seeing toward user authentication technologies and adoption of cloud over the last few years is truly fundamental.  While many of these changes have been evolving for some time, I believe that 2014 will be the tipping point, where enterprises and consumers will embrace better authentication technologies that will further change the way we protect our accounts and identities in the cloud.

The journey away from the most used authentication method of all - passwords - has already started.  With the power of mobile devices and cloud services, we may finally have a chance to solve key challenges on how we authenticate ourselves in the digital world.

Every day we see news on passwords being compromised, from Adobe to Cupid Media. It's not only users who feel weary and insecure. Enterprises and security professionals know all too well how common it is for users to use the same password for multiple services - be it credentials to the corporate network or their bank account.     

Customers are tired of the password experience. Adding insult to injury, the imposition of having to use complex passwords is highly aggravating - especially when there is a general sense that they do nothing more to protect us. Consumers are reaching that tipping point: all they want is to have a secure, yet easy and frictionless authentication experience, to regain a sense of basic online security. In this regard, we are at a unique point in time when consumer and enterprise interests are converging.

Enterprises have long recognized the need for strong authentication, but at times have been held back by the perceived costs and inconvenience that this might cause their users. What businesses and corporations expect is better integrated identity and access solutions that provide both confidence as well as secure authentication for mobile devices without compromising the user experience.  Organizations want to be able to implement and offer their users cost effective and easier ways to authenticate and manage their identity whether on corporate networks, or as part of cloud services and applications.

This common goal, along with the emergence of sensors and security elements that are built into mobile devices, will transform the way we authenticate. Recent examples include biometrics-based authentication such as Apple's Touch ID on the iPhone, or Android face-unlock by Google.

These are just examples of better authentication technologies that change the way we protect our accounts and identities in the cloud.  Here are additional predictions for 2014: 

1.       The majority of enterprises that deploy and refresh their authentication systems will be taking a broader approach to authentication and will select versatile authentication over traditional hardware, one time password (OTP) token-based solutions. Next generation authentication systems allow them to address several use cases, going beyond a silo approach. Using identity federation technologies with seamless authentication enables better adoption and more security to cloud environments - whether it is for end users accessing the services, or privileged users who administer the virtualized environments.

2.       One of the key challenges in the cloud is the fragmentation of identity information and the need to have cross domain and cross device interoperability. The need of users to make their identity portable and usable across domains and the need to strongly authenticate cannot be fulfilled with plain password authentication.  New product releases around the FIDO Alliance authentication specifications will hasten the demise of static passwords by enabling consumers and organizations to more easily use higher assurance solutions.

3.       Next Generation Authentication and identity management systems will rely on virtualized infrastructure that provides a multi-tenant service delivery platform. This will fuel a greater demand for service providers to apply hardware-based key security root-of-trust and enhanced security around their offerings, enabled by the ability to leverage HSMs and key managers in the data center and the cloud (for example, Amazon Cloud HSM). 

There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the midst of a transformation in user authentication, which to a large extent is being driven by us as users. The day we can say goodbye to dozens of static passwords is drawing near. This will make our lives easier and more secure. For organizations, the prospect of multi-factor authentication that is easier to deploy and use in both physical and virtual worlds is fast becoming a reality.  


About the Author

Doron Cohen serves as CTO of the Authentication Business Unit at SafeNet, Inc. As the leader of technology strategy for the SafeNet authentication solutions, Cohen is responsible for product strategy while also playing an active role in numerous industry standard communities. He has led the development of identity management solutions for the enterprise in distributed cross-platform environments, spanning operating systems, databases and applications. 
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2013 6:21 AM by David Marshall
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