NewsDecember 4, 2017 @ 9:26 AM

Enterprises Must Evolve Beyond Two-Factor Authentication to Secure Verification

IT decision-makers need to evolve beyond two-factor authentication (2FA) and design new ways to make the user verification process intelligent and risk-aware.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Sridhar Muppidi, chief technology officer for identity and access management solutions at IBM Security Systems, noted that while existing 2FA systems provide some protection against cyber risks, they are not a panacea. Instead, he suggested that users explore a mixture of push notifications and advanced technologies to verify identities.

Attackers Exploit Two-Factor Authentication

Compared to a single-factor authentication method, such as a password used in isolation, 2FA relies on a second input to assure the system that an individual is authenticated to access a service. Muppidi noted that these one-time passwords are often the first line of defense for companies looking to boost security.

However, single-use passwords can be vulnerable to attack. Muppidi reported that cybercriminals have identified a vulnerability in the method phones used to authenticate identities. They are exploiting this vulnerability to steal valuable data and resources, including cryptocurrencies.

There is also a growing number of cases in which attackers contact mobile network providers and ask to transfer control of a victim’s number to a device under their control, reported The New York Times. Attackers can then receive SMS notifications intended for users, and use this information to reset and access online accounts.

Pursuing Alternative Authentication

Muppidi advised organizations looking to strengthen their authentication methods to tie the push notifications used in a 2FA system to the device rather than to the phone number. Specialist software tools, such as security applications with mobile authentication, can provide assurance in this area.

Smarter management of SMS push notifications is just the first step toward more effective authentication. IT decision-makers must consider modern solutions that include identity access and management technologies controlling access to resources.

Multifactor authentication (MFA) allows enterprises to use a range of techniques to authenticate users and identify where applications flag unexpected activity. Behavioral analytics can complement this approach, and allow IT teams to change security levels based on the value of data and the risks presented.

Improving Verification Methods

The development of verification techniques continues. For example, researchers at Florida International University and Bloomberg have generated a new 2FA system that works by prompting the user to take a picture of a personal object. The system, known as Pixie, could offer a more convenient and secure alternative to traditional authentication processes.

While waiting for these new advancements to come, Muppidi advised companies to establish a layered and risk-based defense. Enterprises should pursue a multifactor approach by using systems and analytics in combination to handle security concerns and combat risks. Additionally, IT decision-makers need to ensure that more of their information security budget is directed toward key prevention and detection techniques, such as behavioral analytics.

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Mark Samuels

Tech Journalist

Mark Samuels is an experienced business technology journalist with an outstanding track record in research. He specializes in the role of chief information officers (CIOs) and is adept at helping executives understand the business benefits of complex technologies. Key areas of interest include innovation, digital transformation, cloud computing, mobility, information security, ecommerce and big data. Mark has written articles for national newspapers, including The Guardian, The Times and The Sunday Times. He has also produced features and columns for a range of IT trade publications, such as Computer Weekly, ZDNet, Tech Republic, IT Pro, Channel Pro, CBR and The Register.