Authentication technology is a pretty simple thing, even if some of its applications are not. The basic idea is to use preconfigured methods to verify the identity of legitimate users. You have certainly encountered authentication methods on your favorite websites (like phone code verification and the like), and you probably found them somewhat annoying. However, getting your accounts hacked is more annoying still. Let’s talk a little more about the technologies that are used to separate legitimate users from illicit ones.
This is the most common method of user authentication, but it isn’t really the best. Here is the problem: People often tend to forget passwords, especially if they have a lot of them. When that happens, there has to be a mechanism by which the user can recover or reset that password. That may be convenient for the user, but it also creates a big nasty back door that hackers exploit regularly.
If you are in charge of authenticating users in this way, you really should implement a strong password policy. Weak passwords can be cracked in minutes or even seconds by using “dictionary attacks.” As the name implies, they just try all kinds of words and phrases, learning a little bit more from each failed guess. If your password consists of common words and phrases, it could be cracked in seconds.
This is a type of authentication that goes on constantly, but most people do not see it working. That’s because security certificates work in the background, verifying the user’s identity to every connecting server that requires validation. These certificates are usually contained in your browser’s files. Each one contains a numerical signature (also called a “hash”) that is very difficult to fake.
The purpose of security certificates is to protect both websites and end-users against “spoofed” sites. For instance, someone might make a site that looks like that of your bank. By tricking you into entering those credentials on a spoofed page, they can steal the information via a keylogger or screen capture. When you make a request to connect to a certain website, your machine verifies their certificates and their machine verifies yours. The result is much like a digital handshake.
Biometric authentication is the use of identifying biological information to verify someone’s identity. Fingerprints are probably the most common form of biometric ID, but there are many others. Fingerprint scanners are a little bit inconvenient, so facial recognition via a webcam is another valid tool. Voice recognition isn’t quite as exact but can be another good verification step.
Needless to say, the average website or user has no need to go this far. Biometric authentication is only necessary in cases where extreme security is needed. It wouldn’t make much sense to deploy this kind of thing for a social media site or an entertainment-driven site.
Physical Authentication Devices
In some cases, people choose to go with a more physical solution to the issue of authentication. By issuing all authorized users a card, a special USB stick, or something of that nature, you can cut off many traditional avenues of cyber-attack. Unless someone manages to physically steal the access device, this method is pretty reliable.
The most secure way to do this kind of thing is through the use of one-time password devices. Basically, the password is changed every so often. Because these changes are governed by an algorithm, a computer can still recognize them. Basically, instead of recognizing one particular passphrase, these systems can recognize any password that was created with its algorithm. Although these devices are not perfect, they will definitely create another good barrier against intrusion.
This one is mentioned last because it honestly isn’t all that effective. Phone verification simply proves that you are in possession of a certain phone. That’s not without value, but there are many ways in which people can get around these steps. For instance, some people will use simulated phones or burner phones to avoid giving up their real location. Although we would encourage you to make use of phone verification, we would not encourage you to rely upon it heavily.
At PCH Technologies, we have the people and the expertise to help you with whatever security authentication methods you might choose. With so much cyber-crime and identity theft in the world today, authentication has become more important than ever. All the trends indicate that this importance will only grow with time. If you are interested in learning more about these and other authentication services, please call (856) 754-7500.