Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Glenn Rossman, Janakiram MSV, Steven Mandel

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridharabalan, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, Inc., will focus on key challenges in building an Internet of Things solution infrastructure. He will shed light on efficient ways of defining interactions within IoT solutions, leading to cost and time reduction. He will also introduce ways to handle data and how one can develop IoT solutions that are lean, flexible and configurable, thus making IoT infrastructure agile and scalable.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sheng Liang to Keynote at SYS-CON's 19th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1-3, 2016 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, will discuss recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model f...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
Digital transformation is too big and important for our future success to not understand the rules that apply to it. The first three rules for winning in this age of hyper-digital transformation are: Advantages in speed, analytics and operational tempos must be captured by implementing an optimized information logistics system (OILS) Real-time operational tempos (IT, people and business processes) must be achieved Businesses that can "analyze data and act and with speed" will dominate those t...
If you had a chance to enter on the ground level of the largest e-commerce market in the world – would you? China is the world’s most populated country with the second largest economy and the world’s fastest growing market. It is estimated that by 2018 the Chinese market will be reaching over $30 billion in gaming revenue alone. Admittedly for a foreign company, doing business in China can be challenging. Often changing laws, administrative regulations and the often inscrutable Chinese Interne...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. Adobe helps customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide-from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on its established design leadership, Adobe enables customers not o...
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...