Authentication: More Maturity, Choices in 2015

The past 12 months have been stressful given breaches and privacy violations and countries blocking all or part of their citizens’ access to the Internet (which by the way turned 25 in May).

As the calendar turns to 2015, there is unprecedented power and pitfalls harnessed in computing devices and digital life.

All this connectivity puts pressure on authentication, identity and access management to provide protections and reasonable peace of mind. I gathered a few of my colleagues to help sketch out some predictions on how that all looks in 2015, a year that will inherit the responsibility to fix 2014’s sins. In no particular order, here are our predictions: 

Deepening security concerns fuel new authentication methods.
Consider authentication’s importance as hacks ratchet up security needs while the number of connected devices explodes. Strong authentication is paramount as reliance shrinks on passwords as a security boundary. Adoption accelerates with help from vendors and organizations like the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance. Second factors will mature but watch out for new attacks, especially on mobile apps and SMS that leave a man-in-the-middle vulnerability. Old security trust models will give way to distribute and user-controlled trust models.

Privacy violations raise awareness against unchecked data collection.
Personally identifiable information (PII) has value and requires protection. PII is currency for free online services and retail discounts, but also bait to snare users into compromising positions or grave risk. A backlash against unchecked collection will arise as privacy missteps make headlines. Already the Pew Research Center shows more than 90 percent of adults feel a loss of control over how their personal information is collected and used by companies.

Innovation around devices and home automation give rise to more authentication options.
Who wears the pants in the family may not change, but who does the dirty work will. Wearables, smart devices, and the Internet of Things begin to handle the daily chores and processes of life. Most of these products arrive with little or no concept of a larger security context. Look for better protection on devices, or collections of devices, provided by contactless authenticators be it Bluetooth or Near Field Communications.

Encryption for the masses that’s simple and secure hits mainstream.
The past 12 months were about HTTPS, which had consumers encrypting most things on the move [even if they didn’t know it].  In 2015, we will start to care more about data at rest.  What if your cloud storage provider gets hacked?  Your login credentials go missing? There are bleeding edge options out there – these will become more refined with one or two emerging as leaders.  They will use Public Key cryptography deployed in a “Trust No One” [thanks, Steve Gibson for coining this] mode – where the secret keys never leave your control. Ideally those are generated on, and never leave, a Secure Element based authenticator.

Browsers vie to become the next password managers.
Browser sophistication is on the rise and that means new innovation. The second attempt at managing passwords via the browser will show marked improvement over the previous attempt that was picked apart by the security community. Capabilities will focus on frequently used sites, those that don’t involve financial transactions or as assistants for managing external authenticators.

Phishing attacks in the enterprise grow by 10X.
Give a man a phish and he hacks for a day, teach a man to phish and all hell breaks loose.  2014 demonstrated many corporate attacks are started by phishing someone inside the organization.  In 2015, best practice in the enterprise will include giving every employee authentication that has a strong resistance to phishing. FIDO specifications already address this scenario.  It will become an arms race — closing all the phishing doors before damage is done.

Do you have any predictions for the coming year that relate to security, authentication, identity or access control? If so add them to the comments below.

My colleagues Jerrod Chong, John Haggard, Ronnie Manning and John Salter contributed to this blog.

Image: Stuart Miles/

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