1/12/2012
09:56 AM
Taher Elgamal
Taher Elgamal
Commentary

Identity Versus Authentication

Distinguishing between identity and authentication



I would like to provide my point of view on the relationship and differences between what we call identity and what authentication means in the online world.

The identity determination is important for establishing accounts with various online services, for example. A lot of effort is under way to link a person’s online identity to his real-world identity. This will be quite useful in preventing identity theft from propagating more. If an impersonator succeeds in opening an account in someone else’s name, then it would be quite difficult to discover that event before damage has been done.

Authentication, on the other hand, is the act of proving to the online service that someone is the owner of that account. During the account establishment process, or perhaps afterward, the identity of the user is linked to the authentication method used by the service, therefore making the follow-on sign-on operations easy and secure for the end user. One can easily predict that efforts like the Google street identity would make it much easier for a lot of Internet services to manage the process of ensuring the ownership of an account to its user.

The current efforts in the industry to improve the strong authentication processes will also improve the usability and security of accessing the sites from different client devices. The new mobile devices will contain different potential authentication technologies that can be used easily to authenticate users.

Recognized in the industry as the "inventor of SSL," Dr. Taher Elgamal led the SSL efforts at Netscape. He also wrote the SSL patent and promoted SSL as the Internet security standard within standard committees and the industry. Dr. Elgamal invented several industry and government standards in data security and digital signatures area, including the DSS government standard for digital signatures. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University.

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