We all know the problems with passwords. Users dislike being forced to keep creating new ones, and unfortunately, hackers manage to get hold of passwords – which allows them to impersonate the user. The service providers sometimes get hacked.
On the other hand, biometric identification has not taken off properly due to civil liberties and reliability issues.
The key-fobs that generate one-time codes are good but they are dependent on additional pieces of hardware being carried, introducing additional cost and inconvenience. Also their “keys” have to be stored in a global database such as RSA’s that was hacked in 2011 leading US defence contractor Lockheed Martin to blame RSA for a subsequent break-in.
A young East of England company has developed an entirely hardware-less system having the convenience of a mentally-held secret (users’ create a pattern or shape when enrolling), that is able to provide different codes every time they need to log in, be authenticated or provide their authorisation to perform an action.
The pictures show a matrix (which would be displayed on any device with a screen or even hard copy) filled with random numbers. Using their mental pattern, the user is able to read off a new code. The system is secure against shoulder-surfing or other threats.
The next time, the numbers in the matrix will be different, but using the same pattern, the user is able to create or extract a different code. A user may use a single pattern for all the different sites or accounts he/she needs to access – or he/she may choose to have different ones. The pattern and the software have the potential to replace all fixed passwords, PINs, credit/debit card PINs and other authorisation codes.
The technology’s entropy is mathematically superior to 6-character key-fob tokens, making it more secure.
The “secret ingredient” is how the mental pattern that is shared with the service provider is scrambled. It is stored in fragments in different places so that two of them only remain with the user. It is therefore significantly more difficult to break into than the standards for password encryption and storage in systems like MS Active Directory.
For service providers this solution is very convenient and cost-saving as the matrix can be reproduced on any device with a display or even in hard copy. The software integrates with all IAM (identity access management) software on the market. A simple API (application programming interface) plugs into the current systems to enable its use.
The UK company will implement the software for partners which means they don’t need any inhouse tech resource to do so.
In theory at least this solution alleviates all frequent troublesome situations where passwords and hardware are lost or stolen. All the user needs is to remember the pattern.
The UK company is seeking partners amongst both end users but also developers and resellers offering secure authentication. Finance, insurance, e-commerce are a few sectors to name. The software APIs will be shared under license agreements.