Perimeter
1/29/2012
10:44 AM
Taher Elgamal
Taher Elgamal
Commentary
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Silent Authentication

Authenticating users without explicit login

In today's e-commerce environment, each of us logs on to a plethora of different websites. But if we go back a decade or two, many of us logged on to the Internet once and then got access to many resources. Those days are long gone, but, in fact, that was a much better time from a user-authentication point of view.

We have a large number of user accounts today that require us to remember credentials. There are a number of movements to make the user experience easier while improving, or at least maintaining, the level of security.

A number of the popular websites offers to other sites the ability to use the same login credentials to enable users to reduce the number of passwords they have to remember. This movement is seeing a fair level of success, but will not obviously be the way we login to every Web resource we need. The security level could perhaps be somewhat improved if the authenticating sites have more knowledge of the users and can validate more than just their login user names and passwords.

The more interesting approach, however, would be for the user's first login to be "remembered" by the Internet so that when the user visits a new site, the site can have an interface to an Internet service to ask whether the user on that particular device is the same user who always signs on from that device.

The use of this so-called "fingerprinting" method has been in use in the financial industry for many years. Banks and other financial sites can validate that it is, in fact, their customer who is signing up from that device, which can help avoid the issues associated with stolen passwords.

This Internet silent authentication service can be used by everyone to make sure intruders cannot easily use stolen credentials to get access to other users' accounts.

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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skswave
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skswave,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/15/2012 | 11:39:58 AM
re: Silent Authentication
The Model we should be demanding should support Strong Authentication, Flexibility and Privacy. The computer should work for us and not ask us to compromise for the sake of security. Today, this is possible but requires the major service providers to have an interest in their customer long term relationship.
The Trusted Computing Group technologies provide a solid framework for modern authentication and it all starts with the TPM. The TPM is capable of holding not one but dozens if not hundreds of silent authentication credentials and isolating their use-á from each other. Every site can have a silent authentication credential as opposed to a central service that then KNOWS every time you log into a service. One day there will be a backlash to this Trust us we know everything you do every day but we are trustworthy -ámodel of the current internet. A model where the device is a multiuse, multifactor token is very powerful alternative.
The TPM model is that a key is held in tamper resistant hardware and there are a couple of basic models for the key to be used. The first is nothing is required GÇô this is a model where when asked the TPM will provide an authentication ceremony. The second model is PIN required GÇô This is where the authentication ceremony requires an entry of a PIN every time the authentication ceremony is requested. The third model is PIN entered once per session GÇô This is where you enter a PIN when the machine is turned on and then the keys are available for the entire power session of your PC. -áMost PC manufacturers have also integrated Biometrics as a model to release the keys as an option to using a PIN. (in all cases the PIN is not required to be numerical and has no practical length constraints)
So registration needs to replace passwords.-á That is the mobile model we all leverage every day when we send a txt or place a call. Your phone does not ask you for the Verizon PW to place a call it just logs you in silently and securely.-á -áWe also choses to use a phone password as opposed to the more secure SIM PIN unlock as we want our phones to be easy. The result is that the theft of voice once rampant in the early 90GÇÖs is a non issue Imagine curing electronic identity theft (remember the deet deet tones in analog phones that was a PW for every long distance call). We have done it once we can do it again.
The Future is I log into my device and my device securely and privately logs me into everything. When I register a service to one of my devices all of my devices should have the key added. The value of an INDUSTRY STANDARD is the shared investment to make it happen with at least 2 billion already invested Trusted computing has a very solid foundation to achieve the goal.
There is work to do. TPM while on 600 million PCs is a new model. IT is time for the major providers like Google, CITI, FacebookGǪ. to add TPM as an authentication method. Perhaps 600 million secure customers is not enough ??? ItGÇÖs okay, the mobile industry and the consumer devices are adding TPM today as well. I am sure that someone will unlock the value of a BILLION HAPPY customers.
Steven Sprague
CEO Wave Systems Corp.
Committed to moving Passwords to the science museum
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