Welcome!

Linux Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Ignacio M. Llorente, Trevor Parsons

Related Topics: Security, Java, SOA & WOA, .NET, Linux, Web 2.0

Security: Article

Confronting Identity Theft Head-On with Multi-Factor Authentication

Methods of identity theft have outpaced popular security measures, necessitating a new standard in data defense

The online world has become a dangerous place. According to a survey, 90 percent of all companies fell victim to a security breach in the last twelve months. Hacking and advanced persistent threats (APTs) have rendered the two-factor authentication token, now over 20 years old, essentially obsolete. Without question, a real need exists for a truly secure approach to real-time multifactor authentication to combat today's modern threats.

Remote Access Spikes Security Risk
The use of online services has exploded in the last decade as enterprises have adopted remote access as the default way to access systems and conduct business. With the pervasive use of online access to conduct business, the threat of identity theft has increased with stunning speed and complexity. Ponemon Research surveyed more than 500 corporations and found that 90 percent had been successfully hacked in the last twelve months. This finding underscores the need for major enterprises to adopt stringent, effective security methods as a means to protect against breaches. As a result, modern mobile phone-based multifactor authentication is in high demand.

Advances in Hacking
In the same way that the remote access industry has evolved, so have threats and their complexity. In the early days of online services, usernames and passwords were typically the only form of authentication. To defeat them, hackers used "brute force" attacks to guess the username or password, or "dictionary attacks" to assume a user's identity. In a dictionary attack, a computer or a hacker attempts various combinations of potential passwords until access is granted.

Systems eventually evolved to block these attempts by locking the account down after a few faulty attempts, leading hackers to develop new techniques like key loggers. Today, the most widely used attacks are pharming, phishing or a combination of the two. These terms describe methods by which users are led to a counterfeit website that looks just like the original. This tricks the user into entering his or her username and password. Some of the more advanced attacks send stolen information to the hackers in real time via a small instant message program, compromising many popular two-factor authentication tokens. As an example, Zeus malware captures a user's credentials - even advanced time-based token codes - and sends the information to the hacker.

As if that weren't enough, newer and more sophisticated methods of intercepting user interactions with online services have emerged in recent years, including man-in-the-browser, man-in-the-middle and session hijacking. Even the most secure traditional two-factor authentication token devices can no longer secure a user's identity against these new, more insidious threats. Yet many organizations are unaware that traditional tokens can be compromised, posing a significant security risk.

Many Security Technologies Fall Short
Today's ever-changing threat environment creates a never-ending battle wherein organizations must constantly evaluate the right level of investment in security. Often, the best possible protection is not financially feasible for many organizations, and thus a trade-off has to be made. To protect against identity theft schemes within budgetary constraints, organizations have sampled different technologies, including certificates, biometric scanning, identity cards and hard- and software tokens, with the latter being the most dominate technology. Certificates are often viewed as the ideal way to connect two devices with a secure, identifiable connection. The main issue is the deployment and administration of these certificates and the risks that these are copied without the user knowing it. Furthermore, the certificate authority might be compromised as well.

Biometric scanning has also enjoyed some success, often seen as a very secure alternative. However, the assumption that you always have a functioning finger or iris scanner handy has proven impractical, and the resulting scan produces a digital file that can itself be compromised. Another alternative is the identity card, which often proves impractical in a world of Bring Your Own Device ("BYOD"), where users demand access from an ever-changing variety of devices. Therefore, a new approach is needed.

A Mobile Approach to Security
Many organizations have begun using multi-factor authentication based on mobile networks to address today's modern threats while meeting a user's need for easier and more flexible solutions.

Two elements drive the adoption of the new crop of multi-factor authentication: one, the need to deliver hardened security that anticipates novel threats; and two, the need to deploy this level of security easily and at a low cost. The device used in the authentication process also needs to be connected to the network in real time and be unique to the user in question.

If the authentication engine sends a regular token via SMS, however, today's malware threats can steal the code easily. Therefore, organizations must seek strategies that operate efficiently in a message-based environment to successfully defend against modern threats. Key elements can include:

  • One-time password: To get the highest possible level of security, the one-time password (OTP) must both be generated in real time and be specific (locked) to the particular session, as opposed to tokens that use seed files where the passcodes are stored.
  • Minimal complexity: To minimize infrastructure complexity, the solution should plug into different login scenarios, such as Citrix, VMware, Cisco, Microsoft, SSL VPNs, IPsec VPNs and web logins. Other ways to minimize infrastructure overload include providing these logins in an integrated, session-based architecture.
  • Multiple defenses: To support real-time code delivery, the organization needs robust and redundant server-side architecture along with multiple delivery mechanism support, regardless of geographic location.
  • Easy management: The solution should be able to be managed easily within the existing user management infrastructure.
  • Context-specific: To maximize security, the company should leverage contextual information - such as geo-location and behavior patterns - to effectively authenticate the user.

The Security Horizon
The modern convenience of online services has brought with it the modern scourge of identity theft. Methods of identity theft have outpaced popular security measures, necessitating a new standard in data defense: session- and location-specific multi-factor authentication. This kind of real-time solution, delivered to a user's mobile phone, can provide the security organizations must have if they hope to protect their employees, users and data from modern online threats.

More Stories By Claus Rosendal

Claus Rosendal is a founding member of SMS PASSCODE A/S, where he oversees the product strategy and development in the role of Chief Technology Officer. Prior to founding SMS PASSCODE A/S, he was a co-founder of Conecto A/S, a leading consulting company within the area of mobile computing and IT security solutions with special emphasis on Citrix, Blackberry and other advanced handheld devices. Prior to founding Conecto A/S, he headed up his own IT consulting company, where he was responsible for several successful ERP implementations in different companies (C5 / SAP). Claus holds a Master Degree in computer science from University of Copenhagen.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...