Spring Cleaning Your Office? Know What to Do with E-Waste
Keep Your Identity Safe When Filing Taxes This Year
Why use Penn+Box when Storing Data in the Cloud
Mobile Device Security - 3 Recommendations for Cloud Users (Hint: That's You!)
Be Aware of QR Code Risks
It’s Data Privacy Month: Update Your Facebook Privacy Settings and More
How Are You Celebrating Data Privacy Month?
Stay Secure while Working on Public Wi-Fi Networks
Protecting Your Finances During This Year's Holiday Shopping Season
Cloud and You
Security and Privacy Online Training & Tools
October: Free Secure Disposal of Paper and Electronics at Employee Resource Fair; NCSAM
Student Privacy - What Do I Need To Know? A FERPA Reminder
Top 10 Tips for Securing Your Smartphone or Tablet
Working Off Campus? Some Tips to Consider
Tagged with passwords
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 - Almanac Vol. 55, No. 11
Beyond Passwords: Strong Authentication
As more and more sensitive and confidential information makes its way into online systems and databases, “strong authentication” is a term we’re all going to be hearing more about in the coming months and years. The need for computer users to select and protect “strong” passwords has been a recurring topic of our One Step Ahead series, and it remains a fact that the overwhelming majority of systems in the world still rely on passwords as a single method to authenticate users despite the well-known problems and vulnerabilities.
Discussions about authentication usually center around three commonly identified “factors” that can be used to verify identity:
- Something you know. The most obvious example of this, of course, is a password/passphrase that, in theory, is known only by the user.
- Something you have. For computers, this usually is some sort of electronic “token” or “Smart Card” that displays a short-term code (which changes every minute or so) that is synchronized with the system. While it may seem like a password, the purpose is to verify that the user is in physical possession of the token.
- Something you are. This refers to “biometric” verification of identity using devices that scan physical attributes like fingerprints or irises. While technology-based measures like these are not yet generally ready for mass-market (the “Mythbusters” TV show has recently demonstrated that consumer-level fingerprint scanners can be deceived), the time is coming when it will be commonplace to log on in part by touching or looking into something.
A system that uses two or more of these factors is said to be “strongly authenticated”. Like our peer institutions, Penn is investigating ways to employ strong authentication, especially on critical systems. If you regularly work with data that is sensitive or confidential, chances are that “strong authentication” will become part of your life in the not-too-distant future.