Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Linux Containers, Agile Computing

Cloud 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.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...