Authentication: all about methods to protect users and data

The security of sensitive data is always at the heart of users’ concerns. To strengthen this security, various authentication measures have been developed.

In this increasingly digital age, the demand of companies for diversified authentication measures is growing. Several concerns justify this demand. But the first reason is still the vital need to protect data and users at all costs. On the other hand, some companies may diversify their authentication measures as a way to start their business development.

Currently, the wide variety of possible authentication measures allows for an abundance of choice. The business of the enterprise may also drive the choice of corresponding authentication measures.

Authentication: What is it?

It is an identification measure that a system, database, network or peripheral device requires when one or more users decide to access it. It constitutes a protective barrier to reinforce the security system. At the same time, it allows for the verification of the identity and frequency of access requests to the IT structures.

In general and for many years, authentication measures are presented as a request for a username and password. Over time, the development of other measures and new identification technologies have allowed many entries into the scene: biometrics, applications, encryption measures or cryptography.

As mentioned above, authentication allows official users to have access to a number of systems. And so, logically, it is intended to deny access to unwanted visitors who may have malicious interests. Hackers do not skimp on the means to access IT infrastructures and user accounts. Sensitive data must always be given extra protection in this type of situation. And sometimes in the same system, two users should not have access to each other’s sensitive data.

Cybercriminals remain the biggest threat to systems. It is against such attempts that companies must anticipate informal access. Many global companies have had to deal with the disastrous consequences of poor authentication measures. Moreover, cybercriminals are redoubling their efforts in these times when confidential data contained in the cloud sometimes holds information whose stakes can rock the daily life of several companies.

Fortunately, to prevent malicious infiltration, IT experts have developed various strong authentication measures along the way. Here are five of them.

Password authentication

The use of passwords is probably the most well-known authentication measure around the world. A password can be made up of numbers, letters, or other keyboard-based characters. The creation and choice of a password must take into account that the more complex it is, the less exposed it is. Therefore, a diverse combination of numbers, upper and lower case letters and unusual characters are often suggested.

The bad habit to have is to keep one password for multiple online accounts. Yet many users do this. The other temptation is to choose a password with information that is accessible to the general public, such as your birthday. The reason for this is that it can be a hassle to remember different passwords. The convenience argument outweighs security and many users expose their accounts to potential threats. When passwords are weak, phishing attacks occur. In February, a massive phishing attack on LinkedIn was reported, with hackers targeting job seekers.

MFA or multi-factor authentication

This method combines two or more independent authentication factors to gain access to a system, device or network. For example, A2F is 2-factor authentication.

It can manifest as a mobile device code request combined with voice biometrics. MFA includes fingerprint requests, facial recognition, Captcha tests and of course voice biometrics. Those who want to protect their account from hackers therefore prefer MFA. However, if the user’s phone is stolen and the SIM card is lost, the threat cannot be completely ruled out.

Certificate-based authentication

This is the method most commonly used on institutional or government sites. Users must present a digital certificate to access a system. This digital certificate can take the form of a national identity card, a passport or a driver’s license. It should be noted that each certificate is specific to an individual. It contains his digital identity: a public key and a digital signature from a certification authority. Its sharing and use cannot be done by another person. On the other hand, only a certification authority can deliver it. They are the subject of many requests at the server level. The latter examine the public key and the digital signature as well as the issuing authority. Then the servers will use cryptography to issue a private key that corresponds to the certificate.

Biometrics

This authentication measure uses a person’s biometric data. It includes strategies based on facial recognition, fingerprints, eye scans and voice biometrics. It should be noted that all these measures are personal and unique to a single individual.

The facial recognition requires that the face of the individual seeking access be stored in the database beforehand.

The fingerprintsFingerprints, unique to each person, are scanned before being stored on devices or identification equipment. The most popular use of fingerprints is for smartphone unlocking. On the back of the mobile device, a sensitive surface allows the user’s finger to be scanned every time he wants to open his phone.

The eye scanners mobilize iris and retina recognition technologies. Very sophisticated, the wearing of glasses and contact lenses makes them easily disturbable. This can be embarrassing to remove at the time of scanning.

The voice biometrics uses voice recognition to identify users. Users will have to either speak or emit a specific sound for the devices to recognize their voice.

The benefits of biometrics

Biometrics has several advantages. First, the uniqueness of biological characteristics cannot be confused with others in the same database. Second, biometric authentication can be placed at gates, entrances to buildings. And finally, it can be added to another authentication measure like multi-factor authentication.

Biometrics is considered the favorite authentication for official institutions: military bases, airports, medical centers or in-depth scientific research centers, and at borders. Its strength lies in its originality. The required measures cannot be falsified and moreover, they do not require additional efforts from the users. This authentication measure is already at the cutting edge of technology.

The creation of Yousign: the electronic signature is gaining momentum. New form of authentication to sign electronically, it is considered more secure. The e-signature does not allow for errors, it also avoids manual verifications. It is used to ratify agreements between third parties, suppliers and customers.

Token-based authentication

A bit peculiar, this authentication measure requires the user to enter their identification once in exchange for tokens. These tokens take the form of a unique cipher with random characters. With the token, the user can enter systems or networks. Appreciated by frameworks and clients, token-based authentication is convenient because it does not require any additional re-identification at the system level. Their use induces RESTful APIs.

Hackers on a global level

In France, even though the country’s national cybersecurity organization is advanced, recently, the National Health Insurance Fund was hacked. Hackers gained access to the amelipro accounts of 19 health professionals. 500,000 French personal data were stolen.

And the Russian-Ukrainian war has brought its share of cybercriminal problems. The Eurovision 2022 event quickly fell victim to pro-Russian hackers. As Russia was sanctioned so that they could not participate in Eurovision 2022, hackers attacked the computer system of the organization.

Cryptography is evolving at great speed on its side. The American National Institute of Standards and Technology recently presented 4 encryption tools. Developed to circumvent the potential problems with the appearance of quantum supercomputers.

In conclusion, systems, companies as well as users need to renew their authentication measures regularly. This allows data protection strategies to be updated. Although technologies abound to secure them, threats can never be ruled out. Cybercriminals are also renewing their drive for malicious access to certain systems and accounts. It is therefore necessary to be extra vigilant towards potential hackers. But attention is also required between colleagues within the same institution.

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