The state of authentication

Opinion by Dan Raywood

I recently met with authentication vendor Signify to discuss what has been a turbulent year in the sector.

I recently met with authentication vendor Signify to discuss what has been a turbulent year in the sector.

From the attack on RSA in March 2011, to the acquisition of CryptoCard by SafeNet, with the former acquiring the patents and intellectual property of GrIDsure, to the upcoming Olympics and the expected remote working needs, this year has been unforgettable for the authentication sector.

Dave Abraham, CEO of two-factor authentication (2FA) managed service provider Signify, said that the sector was healthy, with new vendors being launched and two of the major players from ten years ago (RSA and Vasco) still active now.

He said: “Ten years ago I never would have imagined that RSA would still be dominant, but this is still a niche. Identity is still at the middle of everything you do and 2FA is a way of proving your identity.”

Abraham admitted that when the attack on Lockheed Martin was reported, it was a case of 'all hands on deck' for Signify, as the period of June to October was about remediation as it built a system for replacement RSA tokens that were pre-allocated to a specific person.

However he claimed that rather than a mass clambering for replacements, half of the customers wanted a replacement, while the other half ‘were not bothered'. By January 2012, they still had the replacement tokens and they had to chase clients but it was a 50/50 case of who wanted a replacement and who did not.

However this demand may have been offset by the demand for soft tokens, Abraham said that the use of tablets, smartphones and applications is driving a demand for this technology.

He said: “We are seeing a big uptake of password-on-demand (via SMS), [it] makes up to ten per cent of our businesses, but soft tokens are better as it doesn't matter if you have no coverage and we have seen these taking off a lot over the last few years. Since the start of the millennium, soft tokens have been the same but smartphones have got smarter and faster.

“In the same way, 2FA has not changed but broadband has. Apps now understand time zones and phones have made it easier, so we are selling a lot more soft tokens.

“Hardware is keeping pace though as people like choice, you can drop a hard token or use it underground and it still works, you wouldn't drop your smartphone in a glass of water.”

Abraham said that for new deployments, there is a 50/50 split of hard and soft tokens and for existing customers, soft tokens account for 15 per cent of new business. However users opt for a combination of technologies in order for them to offer remote working capabilities for key workers.

“Availability is as important as compliance. Security is not just about data loss, but the availability of services for staff to work,” he said.

In a month the London Olympics will begin and put users in the capital in a position whereby they may need reliable remote access and there are plenty of secure, flexible options.

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