On Determining Online Identities

Forging a stronger tie between the sign-on process and the actual known user who owns that particular account
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion and argument over the use of online activities to detect user identities. One of the common discussion points today is how Facebook detects the user not just by the user name and password he enters, but also by matching that user with his known activities, circle of friends, and so on. Other similar activities are done by Google (Street Identity) and others.

The advantages of these approaches are that they provide a stronger tie between the sign-on process and the actual known user who owns that particular account. This will help reduce the effect of phishing and stolen credentials, which end up in identity theft and other fraud. In the credit card industry, the associations have been promoting technologies labeled “3D secure” to provide additional identity verification when a credit card is entered in an online transaction.

There are some possible disadvantages for these approaches that are centered around the possible loss of private information that the sites collect and use to determine the online identity of a user. Indeed, if these data elements are protected properly, then the loss of privacy could be severe. However, the power of improving the strength of the tie between a user and a session that the user initiated is a much stronger, continuous authentication process around online sessions.

Examples in the credit card transaction industry are also in progress. IdentityMind is spearheading a new direction that ties the actual user who is known to own a credit card to the transaction, rather than depending on machine IDs, which have been used or years with only marginal improvement in the fraud rates.

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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