Hacking attacks affect approximately one in three Americans every year, and cybersecurity has become a trillion-dollar industry. Criminals often target small and mid-size companies or individuals who do not have the latest security systems.

New trends in user authentication seek to balance better cybersecurity with increased convenience. These advances may transform the way a workplace operates, while also giving individuals more options for securing their personal data and devices.

Here are some of the authentication trends that are changing the way companies and individuals approach cybersecurity.

Biometrics

Biometric authentication uses the unique biological characteristics of an individual to verify their identity. Biometric identification systems can look at someone’s fingerprints, voice, retina, or facial features.

This is one of the most trusted options for verifying someone’s identity because it is almost impossible to fake a fingerprint or fool a retina scanner unless you have specialized knowledge or training.

Though biometric logins are growing in popularity for companies, many mobile phones have also started offering fingerprint, voice, or facial-recognition login options instead of asking for a passcode.

Pros

  • Biometrics are secure because they are almost impossible to fake or replicate.
  • Biometric scans are quick, so this option is quite convenient.
  • Biometrics are user-friendly. You do not need to remember a code or carry an external device.

Cons

  • Spoofing attacks, where someone mimics someone’s biometric data, are possible for skilled hackers.
  • After an initial breach, a hacker could gain access to the entire system unless there are multiple layers of security (which would hamper convenience for users).

Facial recognition and fingerprint scans provide a convenient authentication option, but they are best when combined with other security measures.

Security tokens

A security token is a portable device that authenticates an individual’s identity electronically. You can think of it as a digital key needed to access restricted information and resources. They store cryptographic keys or codes that verify the user’s identity. Some keys may require multiple steps, with the token holding biometric data that the user must then verify via a scanner.

Some of today’s security tokens have added protections to ward off spoofing or hacking attempts. For example, they may have a tamper-resistant casing or small keypads where users can enter a PIN before the device activates.

Authentication tokens can connect to a system in different ways. Some plug into a computer via a USB port. Others offer a bit more convenience by connecting via radio frequency identification (RFI), Bluetooth, or near-field communication (NFC).

Pros

  • Security tokens work well as an added layer of protection.
  • They can be programmed to work only within a specific period and replaced or reprogrammed regularly, making spoofing more difficult.
  • Security tokens are convenient for users.

Cons

  • Since they are physical, tokens can be lost or stolen and used without the owner’s knowledge.
  • Security token systems that rely on wireless or internet connections may be vulnerable to third-party attacks.
  • Skilled hackers can use a wireless NFC or Bluetooth connection to steal data on a security token.

Employers need to run the appropriate checks before giving a token to an employee to ensure they are not a bad actor.

Certificate-based authentication

Certificate-based authentication relies on a digital certificate to identify a user or device before granting access to an application or network. This authentication technique is typically combined with traditional verification methods, such as entering a password or PIN.

A certificate stops unauthorized accounts, computers, or devices from accessing the secured system. It can also keep authorized users from accessing the system from unsecured devices that a hacker could compromise.

IT staff can install the certificate on approved machines or devices, and most certificate-based solutions come with a cloud-based management platform. Administrators use this to grant, update, renew, and revoke certificates.

Pros

  • Certificates allow for mutual authentication between the system and the user’s computer or device.
  • There is no additional hardware required for certificate-based authentication.
  • The authentication is user-friendly and requires no other steps after certificate installation.

Cons

  • Installation requires technical knowledge, so this is not a solution for individuals or small businesses without IT staff.
  • The system is vulnerable to attacks if someone steals and uses a machine with a certificate installed.

Other authentication options are more traditional and familiar to anyone who uses the internet.

Passwords

Password authentication is the most familiar form of identity verification. It requires the user to input a unique username and passcode to access a device, account, or system.

Companies may still use passwords alongside other security measures. However, most services that individuals use, from email to social media platforms to online banking to streaming services, require a username and password to log in.

Many companies try to stop people from using easy-to-guess passwords by having numeral and symbol requirements. There are also password management tools that help users create and remember complex codes that no one would be able to guess.

Another popular option is to use two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires the user to enter a second random code, sent via email, text, or app, before logging in.

Pros

  • Passwords are easy and cheap for companies and website developers to implement without any additional hardware.
  • You can easily change passwords if you suspect they are compromised.
  • Passwords are simple to combine with other methods, such as 2FA, for layered security.

Cons

  • Simple passwords are easy for hackers to guess.
  • Servers containing password data could be hacked, exposing all accounts and devices that use the same login information.

The inconvenience of lost or forgotten passwords and the security risks associated with stolen or insecure codes could make passwords obsolete in the future. However, at present, they are still a widely used authentication method.

Third-party monitoring

Third-party monitoring involves contracting a specialist to gather and analyze data related to a company’s IT activities and cybersecurity practices. This method can be useful because cyber threats constantly evolve, and hackers always focus on overcoming the latest security measures.

Companies typically rely on a managed service provider (MSP) to offer this security assistance. These experts use specialized software to monitor activity on the company’s network.

Another advantage of third-party monitoring is the ability to detect suspicious activity within the system and find internal threats. No other authentication option can see or isolate security issues once a user is authenticated and in the system.

The software can also streamline IT operations with remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. In addition to security, remote monitoring and management can detect problems and alert IT staff so that they can respond quickly before an issue disrupts operations. These services also offer other advantages, such as providing automated network discovery for IT providers.

Pros

  • Third-party monitoring saves an organization time to focus on business operations rather than cybersecurity.
  • It capitalizes on the use of external IT experts who are more specialized than in-house IT generalists.
  • It ensures uninterrupted 24-hour monitoring for IT systems.

Cons

  • If you contract with the wrong provider, third-party monitoring could be a costly option.
  • It may not be accessible or suitable for small businesses and individuals.

Trends and developments in authentication allow companies and individuals to use multiple layers of security or rely on tools that offer protection without compromising convenience.

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