Perimeter
9/10/2011
02:07 PM
Taher Elgamal
Taher Elgamal
Commentary
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Passwords: Time's Up?

Stronger authentication is a major security issue yet to be solved

Every security consultant, ethical hacker, or not-so-ethical hacker knows that the easiest way to gain unauthorized access to any network is through social engineering. Even the most sophisticated attack is much easier and more destructive when the attacker gains access to a password to some account or system on a network. The most deadly of these are root or "super-user" passwords that administrators use to manage the network.

It really is imperative that the industry collaborates to move away from password-entry methods. Many of today’s attacks and threats are centered around obtaining passwords from someone. Industry efforts are under way to simplify users' access issues by having a single password that unlocks others -- that is a good benefit to users to make Internet access easier, but the security threat by depending on passwords for access stays.

The time has come for the industry to unify around a suite of standards to remove the use of passwords. There have been efforts in the past -- the Liberty Alliance, for example -- but industry adoption has never happened. Stronger authentication is the most important security issue remaining to be solved for both Internet and enterprise use.

I look forward to the day when I don't need to remember these things.

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. In addition to serving on numerous corporate advisory boards, Dr. Elgamal is the Chief Security Officer at Axway, a global provider of multi-enterprise solutions and infrastructure. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University. View more of his blog posts here.

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