The Card Was and Is Only a Credential Carrier

Cash is here to stay – cards are the true dinosaurs

This question of the extinction of the payment card is misleading. 

What is a payment card?  It is the carrier of a set of credentials, A means of Identification offering financial Attributes capable of being authenticated by a party seeking to sell something to the individual or entity presenting the credential as a mechanism to assure payment.

Back when credit cards were designed, the goal was to offer merchants a guarantee of payment and anonymous consumers a means of paying.  Behind this means of payment, a financial institution, the issuer, provides the consumer with a “Line of Credit”.

On the merchant side, another financial institution buys these guaranteed receivables from the merchant and charges the merchant a “merchant discount”.  Later that day the Issuing Institution advances payment to the Acquiring Institution based on an agreed set of terms and operating rules. Terms and conditions the involved financial institutions collectively agreed upon.

For this method of payment to be effective, a large number of consumers and merchants had to agree to participate; hence the financial institutions came together and formed what we now know as MasterCard and Visa.

Given the state of technology at the time it was essential this new mechanism work without the burden and expense associated with the merchant, supported by the acquirer, contacting the issuer to receive approval, or, in stronger terms be assured of a guarantee of payment.  To achieve this result, the merchant needed something to acquire the necessary information to submit a request for payment.  For both the merchants and financial institutions,, there had to be a means of authentication. Designed to assure the responsible parties of the authenticity of the person or entity to present their payment credentials.

To accomplish this goal, just like with money, physical security features are integrated into the payment card designed to allow the merchant to authenticate the uniqueness of the card carrying the payment credential, thus assuring the merchant of the authenticity of the card.

Overtime criminals successfully counterfeited these security features.

As these features were compromised additional features had to be added.

Today, a computer has been embedded inside the card, in order to assure the authenticity of the payment card credentials being presented to the merchant.

These computers embedded onto the front of a payment card exploit the power of cryptography.  Cryptographic certificates and digital signatures are created by and for these computers, allowing:

    • The Issuer (symmetric cryptography) to support Online Authentication
    • The merchant (asymmetric cryptography) to support Offline Data Authentication

These two mechanisms prove to the merchant and issuer that the card is unique and the data, credentials, and digital signature it contains or produces are authentic.

Once all the merchants have are capable of reading the data from the chip card, the security features of the card become redundant. 

As these features become redundant and the merchants embrace Near Field Communications, based on the ISO 14443 standard, the issuer can replace the card form factor with anything equipped with the necessary computational capabilities and ability to communicate with the terminal over the NFC interface.

This is exactly what Apple Pay and Google Pay have done.  They replaced the card with a device.  Yes, the Payment Card may become redundant.  But, the Payment Credentials they contain, remain.

What we know as card payments, is fundamentally an account-based solution. Money, through the defined settlement process, ultimately move from the line of credit or deposit account of the buyer, through a series of accounts with the participating financial institutions, to the account of the merchant.

Card-based credential payments
simply become
Device-based credential payments

 

In the Digital world certificates replace so many things

What is a certificate? A certificate as defined by Merriam Webster

certificate noun

1: a document containing a certified statement especially as to the truth of something
specifically: a document certifying that one has fulfilled the requirements of and may practice in a field

2: something serving the same end as a certificate

3: a document evidencing ownership or debt

certificate verb

: to testify to or authorize by a certificate

When we designed the EMV specification we employed a cryptographic mechanism to assure the merchant and ultimately the issuer of the presence of a uniquely issued payment card.  The goal, address the weakness of the security features then present on a physical payment card.

For the merchant – a local mechanism capable of allowing the device – the point of sale to attest to the membership of that card to the family of cards issued under one of the Payment Network brands.

For the Issuer – a mechanism where the card signed transaction details the merchant would forward a digital certificate – the cryptogram – to the issuer for authentication.  This cryptogram included in the message sent to the issuer assured the issuer, the card they issued; was presented to the merchant as a means of payment, for the transaction.

What is a payment card? – It is a certificate, issued by a financial institution, designed to guarantee the merchant will be paid – if they follow the agreed payment brand rules.

What is a ticket? – It is a certificate, issued by the movie theater, or a designated vendor, granting access to some venue or event.

What is a license? – It is a certificate, issued by some authority identifying your right to be or the ability to do something.

In the digital world, certificates are strings of characters, such as 2FG%4T678&b23, created, using some mechanism, by an Authority.  The readers, of these characters, use the certificate to Authenticate the uniqueness and Authority associated with the presentation of this certificate by someone or thing to something or someone.

 

To Identify or to Authenticate what is the difference?

Today I read an article on LinkedIn

 ‘Identification’ is to give an answer to the question of ‘Who is he/she?’, while ‘Authentication’ is to answer ‘Is he/she the person who he/she claims to be?’

This distinction for me is clear.  Yet, based on this article, and personal observation, people do not appreciate the unique difference between these two words.

For those who remember the film War Games, the two young adults were able to access the game simply by learning tidbits about the author of the program.  “Joshua” is the critical fact our young hackers unveiled.  This single word was both the identifier and the password.  A simplistic form of Identification which some may confuse with Authentication.

Our driver’s license number, credit card numbers, passport number, social security number, employee number, email address or other aliases; are identifiers.  These values are and should have remained, simple means of linking someone to the person who initially registered on a web site.

We then link these identifiers to a means of Authentication, an Authenticator.  We then use the authenticator combined with the identifier to assure Identification.  The recent NIST  800-63 standard defines the strength of an Authenticator.  The simple reality the authenticator can be a combination of things you know, things you have, and things you are.  Combining these factors create different strengths of Authentication.

Back in the day, a password, if properly constructed, was a very strong means of authentication.  Unfortunately remembering numerous and unique passwords is unmanageable.

One of the issues we face is how so many entities, companies, and other enterprises have taken the identifier and allowed it to also become a means of Identification, a secret.

As soon as a simple number or string of letters designed as public information, to be shared with others; became a means of Identification we created an untenable situation.

Is Identity Dead – The answer is Authentication

Today 2019-12-12 I found my way to the following article and associated podcast.

https://diginomica.com/fall-event-highlight-steve-wilson-says-digital-identity-dead-so-where-do-we-go-here 

https://www.constellationr.com/blog-news/identity-dead

Below is a flow of thought as I read and listened. to Jon Reed and linkedin.com/in/lockstep Stephen Wilson discuss this most interesting topic.

Surveillance Capitalism – So many are taking advantage of our data!

We need to evolve through the pony express stage of data management, and get to a point where there are responsible data intermediaries who are being held to account.

Identity management, for me, is about proving things about myself. I want to log onto a bank and prove that I have a particular bank account. Sometimes I want to log on and prove that I am the controller of a multi-party bank account with my wife. And sometimes I want to log onto a health service and prove my health identity. So this is all about proving things about me in different contexts.

In the podcast, they beg the question “Why is the Digital Identity problem still any issue”?  This leads one to think about the scale and expectation so many have surrounding this idea of “DIgital Identity”!

They then go on to ask the question What is two-factor authentication and remind us that our phone is a two-factor device, exactly what the standards FIDO Alliance worked to develop.  They remind us of the reality that people look after their phones.  We know when our phone is not with us.

Why not simply bind my identity to my phone.

Mr. Wilson sees the phone as the second factor.  I would suggest our devices, bond to our identity, is the primary factor.

Mr. Wilson reminds us that Identity is all about Verifying Claims. We claim to be someone and the relying party seeks to confirm that I am who I claim to be.  Or, when I seek to log back into a website, the relying party needs to make sure it is I – the same person who the relying party originally proofed, registered and agreed on an identifier and an associated means of authentication.  

Attributes are more interesting than Identity

Attributes are what matters in the various relationships we have when we interact with another.  As we think about our data we need to think seriously about what other parties need to know about us and what we wish to share with them.  Efforts in Europe to institute GDPR and the efforts in California to implement CCPA

As I continued to read and follow the thread I ended up at a W3C working group working on “Verifiable Claims” and found the following:

Abstract

verifiable claim is a qualification, achievement, quality, or piece of information about an entity’s background such as a name, government ID, payment provider, home address, or university degree. Such a claim describes a quality or qualities, property or properties of an entity which establish its existence and uniqueness. The use cases outlined here are provided in order to make progress toward possible future standardization and interoperability of both low- and high-stakes claims with the goals of storing, transmitting, and receiving digitally verifiable proof of attributes such as qualifications and achievements. The use cases in this document focus on concrete scenarios that the technology defined by the group should address.

The truth is that Identity Providers, as imagined, can’t deliver. Identity is in the eye of the Relying Party. The state of being identified is determined by a Relying Party (RP) once it is satisfied that enough is known about a data subject to manage the risk of transacting with them.

We are expecting people to be better than smarter than the crooks.  This is an interesting thought that begs the question.

How do “we the people” trust anything we hear, read or otherwise come across.

How does each of us keep up with all of the various products, standards, specifications and other efforts to develop stuff capable of securing our “IDENTITY”?

I am a firm believer in the work the FIDO ALLIANCE and W3C’s work on Web Authentication and recommend its adoption and use based on authenticators capable of adhering to a level of security certification commensurate with the associated risk of the acts, transactions, information, and services offered by the relying party to the user.

It is time to move to Multi-Factor Authentication built on a Restricted Operating Environment

Passwords should become a thing of the past. Here’s why

This morning one of my Google alerts found a blog coming from the World Economic Forum.  It reminds us of the inventor of the password Fernando Corbato.  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said passwords have become “a nightmare”.

The open question is how do we solve for the nightmare of password management we have created that is both effortless and secure.

This article calls for private enterprise and our governments to find answers.  I hope in finding these answers capitalism and profit do not become the reason to act.  I hope social responsibility and community action drive all to find answers that are affordable, convenient, secure and more importantly consumer-friendly.

Where are we

Today.

How many passwords are you trying to manage!  Does your LinkedIn contact list connecting you to more than  4,000 individuals?  Does Facebook, Instagram, and other social media websites inundating you with news and stories about your friends, colleagues and interesting people?

How many cookies have your computers accumulated?  How many databases have more information about you than they need?  If we search the dark web, how valuable is your data?

Cando seeks to help you manage your data, identity, assets, and relationships.

Philip lives on Sea Island with his 93-year-old father, the Doctor.  They pursue travel and Philip keeps his head into what is happening in financial services, blockchain, authentication, digital identity, and, whatever else people seeking to understand the transformation; particularly those in the identity and payments space.

What is happening means we can unlock our hotel rooms, cars, and homes from our phones. Our security system iwill be another app we have to find on our phone.

Instead, we need an intuitive assistant seeking to simplify our lives by taking on repetitive tasks like driving, working inside a data table or simply opening up the house for the season.

Normalizing data and performing the analysis capable of earning value is the name of the game.  Management is about stimulating a team to work in the mutual interest of the organization.  Executives define the strategy and articulate the vision in a manner conducive to success.

Cando seeks to help you manage your assets and relationships.  Assets those places and things you use doing your daily life and those interactions you have with people and entities seeking to serve, sell and partner with you.

Then there are friends who we expect to be part of our lives and therefore have privileges and access capabilities.

All of this with a target of selling integration services to the top million and simply assuring each person has an identity thus serving the bottom billion.  ultimately earning $1 per year per user to simply be there when it all breaks and you wish to restore your digital life.

At the core, your digital security will be based on the use of cryptography and sophisticated matching algorithms designed to assure anyone that you are that one individual in the populatations of the universe.

What You possess, What You Are, What You Claim … Your Certificates

NCCOE NIST Multi-Factor Authentication

What you Possess — The Thing

What you Are — You

Your Relationships

Responsibilities

Authority

Advice

— Secrets

My Certificates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Words

World Wide Web Consortium

FIDO Alliance

Global Platform

The Trusted Computing Group

Future interests

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Nature Language Interface
  • Predictive Analytics

Blockchain made simple

Let’s start at the beginning, the transaction, the distributed ledger entry. Think about the content of the transaction as the payload. Next think of the payload as the land deed, cryptocurrency value, record of ownership, journal entry, smart contract … marriage contract.  Whatever two or more people seek to exchange and record. Another way to think about all of this is as a block of data, code or other digital representation of something duplicated in every participant’s copy of the current ledger.

A governance model is required

What is essential, before anyone can do anything.

The parties seeking to exploit a distributed ledger must define how it will work.

It is what the community or parties seek to represent and manage, using distributed ledger technology, agree.

The whole process of defining the payload begins when the community agrees to and sets off to publish the processes, procedures, rules, functions, and purpose of their application. It is this act of governance we use to define how and what will be conveyed in the payload to be stored and recorded on a blockchain. Which blockchain, protocol, and cryptographic processes; obviously is a decision of the community.

We should be clear before we can do anything with the payload.  Ourselves and ultimately others will have initially and subsequently defined the mechanics and processes designed to assure the integrity of the blockchain, itself.

A Transaction is appended to the chain

There are two parties to each event recorded within these transactions. The agreed events, transactions and smart contracts are ultimately included in a block and properly extended onto the chain for everyone to see and read.  More about Confidentiality in another post.

Once governance is established
People can now interact

Each party has an address and then addresses unique to each asset e.g. coin. The address, in most cases, is simply an asymmetric cryptographic public key.

    • The individual, as is always the case with cryptography, has their own private key(s); they must retain, never lose and keep secret.

When the two parties decide to record an event; the sale or transfer of the title to a car.

    • A formal record of a property, a transaction, ledger entry is created.
    • The basic data.
      • The seller’s public key
      • the buyers public key
      • the payload
      • a hash
      • the signature created by the seller using their private key.

The transactions are broadcast to the network. The nodes or miners continuously work to assemble a defined number of transactions and create the next block.

The chain’s role is to record the providence of an asset and the immutability of all the associated transactions.

These records and blocks of data include content: of, by and following the rules of the consensus process.

    • Each active node or miner is attempting to create the next block.
    • The mathematics involved and the use of hashes to bind this new block to the existing blocks in the chain is beyond the scope of this blog.
    • Let us simply assume the mathematicians and cryptographers define as part of the original design of each chain an infallible solution to the issues of economics, security, integrity, and immutability.
    • These specifications will define the hash game and how one adds the next block to the chain retaining the immutability of the present and the past

By being the first to calculate the cryptographic nonce

The winner receives a reward.

    • Hopefully proportional to the cost of work or other discernable and agreed method of reward.
    • The other active nodes then test to see if they agree the first got it right.
    • If consensus is reached the new block is appended to the chain.
    • This all assumes 51% or more of the miners or nodes reach consensus on the winner’s answer.  And no one can control 51% or anything closer than 33%.

Around and around the game continues, as transactions are added and immutably recorded on the chain.

This whole process fundamentally assures history cannot be altered.

Chains split and fun things happen

If the process is not elegantly managed in full sight of all the participants.

Biometrics are great as long as we understand.

Biometrics are probabilistic, therefore not 100% accurate every time

They should not be shared in central databases. If they are there must be safeguards and strict privacy policies associated with their use

The better approach is to use the biometric to unlock your device or prove you are present.

Your device should then be cryptographically authenticated by the relying party.

The relying party should maintain a list of devices (Authenticators) you register.

The device proves uniqueness.

The Biometric proves presence on that unique device at that moment in time.

Frictionless authentication of the device.

Active verification when the risk demands assurance of the individual who is authorizing or instructing.

Biometrics – Do we end up in a surveillance state

http://www.planetbiometrics.com/article-details/i/10211/desc/guest-post-experience-a-seamless-lifestyle–idemia/

https://www.aclu.org/other/whats-wrong-public-video-surveillance

https://www.govtech.com/policy-management/Study-Surveillance-Cams-Worth-Money.html

As we think about the world we are living in and the world we want to live in. We must balance friction and convenience against the potential risks which will emerge as technology blossoms and expands to touch ever part of our lives. This morning I got a text informing me of the 200 million cameras the Chinese had watching their citizens. I immediately remember the CATV system in London and

CCTV Camera technology on screen display

what parts of the City it covers. Its goal record everyone’s movements to protect against terrorists. Airlines are talking about ticketless travel and some are speaking of passport-less and ticketless airports. We wonder if Alexa is recording our every word and we know our PC, Tablet, Baby monitor & mobile phone cameras and microphones can be used by: who knows who, to watch who knows what, whenever they so please?

Is this the world we want to live in? Or would we prefer our cities to enact laws like those recently enacted in San Francisco. This law is meant to ban the use of these various cameras and listening devices from being used to identify everyone they see or hear.

This conversation then immediately bleeds into the question of our right to privacy. With all that the internet offers for free and what all these devices are capable of sharing; we’ve given our privacy away.

How often do you wonder why the ads you see seem to attempt to sell you exactly what you recent read about? How often do you wonder why you no longer can easily find the site you are looking for? Instead you have to filter through the search list to get past all the ads. How many of us even understand the information people can glean from what we do and were we are; when we use or carry our devices around?

On one side of the discussion is reality. As has been the case for as long as I can remember.  TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, browser, social media, much web content and mobile app are funded by advertising dollars. Spent by those who want to convince some of us to buy what is on offer. It is these advertising dollars which pays for the content and ultimately decides what will survive the test of time. On the other side are the politicians, regulators, lobbyist and corporations who are focused on one thing. Helping people prosper or worse protecting some so they can continue to prosper.

The acquisition of wealth, the construction of infrastructure, the destruction of our enemies or the support for those without; is all about money.

If we seek to protect our privacy and be assured, we will not live in a surveillance state. We must be willing to read the fine print and be ready to pay for what is now free.  We must be ready and willing to take the extra time to pull out our passport, enter our user name, present our boarding pass. We must insist on the necessary friction to protect our identity and our freedoms.

If convenience is what we insist on.  Be assured, companies will happily build solutions to remove friction. Beware, removing friction, when it comes to  your identity or privacy, means you will allow people and organizations to collect and store everything they can about you/  Their goal to identity you and without friction, with the purpose of serving you or better said profiting from your actions.

All of this is more than the Uber experience.  Uber recognizes your phone and account not you.

This will be a world where the system behind the camera will see you, compare your face to all the faces on file and determines it is you. Therefore, knowing who you are, it can do what it is told to do; because it is you.

Smart Cards with Fingerprint Scanners

Over the last couple of years the reality of fingerprint cards is a hot topic in conversation, white papers and press articles.  It led me to think about the challenges and opportunities associated with this intriguing convergence of technologies.

My purpose is not to determine which solution is best or which companies are developing and selling them.  My goal is simply to explore.

The first consideration begins when the card is constructed.  Here we must ask the mechanical question relative to how the electronics are integrated into the strata of an ID-1 card.  This then begs the question of making sure this new card conforms to the specifications dictated by Payment, Networks, Governments or other bodies who define the use of these branded cards.  If we continue to think about the card manufacturing process we need to think about electronics and the use of heat in the typical lamination process or the inclusion of metallic materials used to create a particular look.  One needs to think about the method of connecting the various internal components to the other electronic elements  as the fingerprint scanner, antenna(s)m LEDs, batteries, the EMV chip or contact plate on the face of the card.

The second set of concerns must be related to the personalization of the card.  First question is where will it be personalized? in a branch or within a bureau?  How will it be personalized? With a thermal printer, laser engraver or embossing machine?  Will any of the  personalization processes adversely affect the electronic?. Similarly it will be appropriate to confirm whether any of the various card transport mechanisms will disrupt or damage the sensor and related electronics.

At some point in the processes the consumer must register their fingerprint and the resulting template must be instantiated into the card.  How will this be done?  Some speak of an in branch process.  Others talk about some type of first time cardholder activation process performed when they receive the card in the mail.

Clearly there are a lot more questions the issuer, card manufacturer and personalization provider need to address.  Let alone the method of making sure the cardholder knows how to use the card at the point of sale or ATM

The key question is the cost of the card, is it worth it?

Where are we going

Each morning I read trade articles on Blockchain, Faster Payments, Mobile Wallets, Authentication, Identity and other alerts & subjects of interest. Each day the writers leave me thinking about the future of society, howbwe will address cyber security, what we can do to funally eliminate fraud and which solutions will help us to mitigate risk. These then drives concern about where we will end up, as we drive to define effective means of identity and authentication, capable of supporting the individual desire for convenience and gratification.

Facial recognition deployed to speed up entry and exit to and from countries and through airports are here. The surveillance state is emerging at alarming speed. These same cabilities could potentially deliver a safer environment. Which will it be?

Physical and behavioral biometrics many feel should become the primary means of authentication. Yet, false acceptance and more importantly false rejection will result in inconvenience some expect the consumer to tolerate while other remember friction typically ends up with the consumer abandoning the journey.

The cost of payments, the escalating concern of the retail sector, remund us thatnpayments are sourcesnof revenue for some and friction for others.

Identity theft and the ability to create synthetic identifies are the fears of many. Consumers whose identity is stolen struggle to regain their standing.

In the end all we seek is:

  • Pay for something
  • Identify ourselves
  • Protect our hard earned money
  • Live a safe and productive life
  • Be assured you are you and not someone else

Proofing or Identity Verification is the Key to any Relationship

When we consider our activity in cyber space  and even in in person.  The most important element is the relationships we develop.

If we consider the characteristics of a relationship, we need to think about the question from the perspective of each of the two parties.

  1. The relying party: be it a bank, merchant, club, government, employer or other operator of a website or facility; are interested in serving, selling and supporting the user
  2. The user: be it a individual, consumer, citizen or employee; are interesting in accessing information, exploring, shopping, browsing, communicating, sharing or otherwise enjoying something.

A relationship can then either be enduring or can be that of a guest.

  • The user wants to know if the party they are attempting to engage with is who that party claims to be.  Rely party simultaneously needs to believe the individual is who they claim to be.
  • What the users identity is or better said what attributes of user’ identity are necessary is down to the objectives and longevity of the relationship.

Being assured of these truths is what proofing or identity verification is all about.  Data privacy and need to know then filter into the conversation.  This then needs to be balanced against risks the relying party and the user are taking,

With all of this in mind each party can decide what level of identity verification is required.  This task is all about how one balances privacy, convenience, security and risk.

Biometrics carry risks.

Hacking Our Identity: The Emerging Threats from Biometric Technology

As I skimmed through this article I was reminded of the reality of biometrics.  It is a statistical algorithm designed to compare what was registered to that was just sensed.  It is an imprecise process.  The author reminds us of the importance of our identity in each and every interaction we engage in.  She further ponders the question, of the potential threats to the biometric solutions that countries, people and enterprises are embracing, as we work to address the questions of Authentication and Identification in our complex digital and physical world.

The article asks the questions:

      • Do the countries and enterprises understand the technology and processes used to support biometrics as a means of authentication.
      • Do they appreciate the need to secure and protect this most sensitive of data?
      • Is the data they store able to be used to compromise the individual of the integrity of that which it seeks to protect?
      • Are we at risk of creating a surveillance society?

Finally there is the question of the accuracy of biometric matching.  It is interesting to observe the comparison of the accuracy of biometric matching to PIN or password matching.  We all recognize the challenges of PIN and password.  It is not the concept it is the question of how many complex PIN or passwords is the human mind capable of retaining without writing them down or storing them someplace that can be compromised.

As I have argued in other blogs, the answer must be in the possess of something unique which has a False Reject Rate FRR and a False Accept FAR Rate, both approaching zero.  Clearly the PIN or password has such a characteristic the challenge is in remembering so many.  An object or a thing “Something You Have”, be it a card, phone, watch or bracelet with a Restricted Operating Environment inside e.g. secure element, TEE or TPM, secured using strong cryptography, paired with a biometric makes the most sense.

Identifiers, Tokens and Authentication

Often times I have wondered why everyone is so enamored with Tokens and Tokenization. Some time ago I begged the question of the broken token in a presentation to the Smart Card Alliance.

My premise is simple.

Identifiers are not authenticators. Replacing the identifier with a token as a result of turning an Identifier, the PAN, Social Security Number or other identifying index value, is a bandage on a festering mistake.

What we need to do is address the challenge of authentication in a convenient and frictionless way. Having to protect an identifier was the issue that created PCI and the whole issue of PII data. The Identifier should not need to be protected. It was and still should be an index and means of recognizing the relationship the relying party has with you. The authentication function is to make sure the person linked to that identifier is you!

User name: Identifier

Password: *********

Was not a bad start. Single factor authentication “what you know”.

Given the number of relying parties we all maintain relationships with, it is time to retire the password; Introducing “what you have” a secure thing (be it a chip card, Fob, Mobile Phone or Personal computer) and exploit the power of cryptography. Then add a second factor, a password or PIN, is a great first step. Changing the PIN or Password to a Biometric is a great leap into a truly secure environment.

The Key is to embrace the first factor “What You Have” a true token.

SCA Workshop Tokenization - 2015

We are here to help you figure out the right approach for your organization.

Authentication, Trust, Identity and Identification

This week the following title caught my eye Why Authentication Needs to Simplified for Users and Organizations. As one of those users who wants authentication to be easier, I was driven to reflect back on what companies have offered as mechanisms to secure this amazing landscape called the World Wide Web or the Internet. Each of the four devices on the right are samples of the primary factor “What You Have”. They date back over 25 years and each included a Secure Element currently referred to as a Restricted Operating Environment ROE. The one with the keyboard was issued to me by my european bank in the 90’s. It was used as step up authentication to secure the transfer of funds.

Cumbersome to say the least. I had to enter a PIN, a number displayed on the screen then type the number displayed on LCD into a field on my personal computer. What I always asked myself, why can’t they integrate that thing inside my keyboard or laptop.

Reflecting forward and thinking about what we have to do today to authenticate ourselves. We are confronted with a myriad of solutions each different each claiming to be the right answer to the wider question. Secret questions, PINs, patterns, passwords, an SMS or email with one time passcode, the Google authenticator, the Microsoft authenticator, the FIDO U2F keys, the Fingerprint sensor on my phone, the camera on my desk top, how I use my mouse, where I am located, is there a cookie in my machine.

On top of all of those commercial solutions, there are numerous demo authenticators clients and prospects have asked me to look at.

Each different.

Each requiring the user to appreciate when and how to use it.

What is the answer. First we must agree on the requirements.

  1. Convenient
  2. Intuitive
  3. Easy to Integrate
  4. Secure

Starting with secure it must be able to offer a unique method of authentication that cannot be spoofed, counterfeit or otherwise compromised. It must have a false accept rate approaching zero and a false reject rate also approaching zero.

As it relates to easy to integrate the people who manage identity & access management systems IAM, computers and applications need to be able to quickly and with a minimum of effort, replace what is now used to identify and authenticate the user, with something new.

Intuitive this is the real challenge. There is the variety of users that must be considered. Are they their willing to learn or capable to make the leap, we hope they will?

Finally convenient which demands fast, easy, memorable and even something that is device independent.

How did we get here? Nobility provided individuals letters of introduction, sealed with wax and a signet ring to confirm the origin. This letter assured the attributes, capabilities and identity of the carrier. We trusted because of the seal we recognized

We, one of 7 billion people on this planet, have more contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook and a myriad of other social networks than many towns and cities when a ring and wax was an effective means of authentication.

Today we carry a number of documents. Each designed to provide proof of our identity. We simultaneously expect schools, employers, friends and other agents to be ready to offer proof of our claims. Did we graduate? Did we work there? Are we of good character? Did we received particular certificate?

Insurance companies, airlines, merchants, hotel and banks all provide cards and other means of identity. Each designed to inform someone of our rights, privileges or capabilities.

But, and this is a big but. We do not have an effective and convenient way of sharing these rights, attributes, and privileges on the internet. We let people identify themselves with user Ids and passwords. As the number of digital relations grow the challenge of maintaining secure passwords gets worse. As the challenges of phishing and vishing attacks got more sophisticated the risks, fraud and loses escalated.

We understand these challenges helped to secure card payment systems, were involved in defining new authentication standards and have seen and been exposed to way more ideas than necessary. Happy to help your organization’s secure your consumer and employee relationships.

Disruption or the Reality of Legacy

Often times people speak of disruption as this traumatic thing being imposed upon them, their industry or society. Yet, if we look under the covers disruption more than likely is all about a competitor, not locked into a legacy approach, approaching the market with different tools.

The world of payments, as so many others, have implemented technology then gone on to enhance or update multiple times. Each time, someone or some group of people, had to adapt therefore invest to keep up. More often than not, a community would decide to hold on to what they built, sometime ago, hoping no one tried to disrupt the status quo.

With payment the need to embrace more effective approaches parallels the robustness and frequency of transactions. It also parallels the desire of sellers to do business with anonymous buyers. A lack of trust and a need to reduce the amount of cash we carry drove, markets to promissory notes. These promissory notes further evolved, as trusted intermediaries entered the market and created more efficient methods of providing that guarantee of payment.

Not wanting to duplicate what is already written about the history of money and payments we can jump forward through the paper phase to where we are in North America: Cash, cards, some checks and electronic debits & credits.

If we look inside the evolution of legacy.  We find what we have, is a stumbling block, holding innovation back.  We need to decide to adapt what exists or remove and replace.