With evolution of digital ecosystems, the ability to control access and limit it to required resources has become a primary activity for any organization. With almost every landing page prompting users for their credentials, it is imperative to understand that access management has become a critical component of the modern digital ecosystem, safeguarding sensitive information and ensuring authorized access to specific resources. As technologies evolve, so do the challenges associated with protecting digital assets. Authentication protocols play an important role in determining the efficiency of access management.
In this article, we will explore six emerging trends in authentication protocols that are shaping the landscape of access management.
- Biometric Authentication
One of the most significant developments in access management is advancements in biometric authentication. Traditional methods such as passwords and PINs are prone to security breaches, often due to weak user practices (like multiple users using the same user login) or advanced hacking techniques (such as brute force attacks). Biometric authentication leverages unique biological characteristics such as fingerprints, facial patterns, or iris features to verify a user’s identity. Advancements in biometric technology have made it more reliable, secure and easy, providing a robust solution for access management. Facial recognition has gained prominence in various industries, offering a convenient and contactless authentication method. With most smartphones relying on FaceId, from Apple, Samsung, and the latest players like Xiaomi, Redmi, and OnePlus, it proves the reliability of biometric authentication. As the technology continues to improve, we can expect wider adoption and integration of biometric authentication in access management.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Multi-factor authentication has been a staple in access management for some time, but recent trends indicate a shift towards more sophisticated and seamless MFA solutions. Traditional MFA typically involves a combination of something you know (password), something you have (smart card), or something you are (biometric). However, emerging trends focus on contextual factors, adding an extra layer of security. Context-aware MFA considers the user’s location, device type, and behavioral patterns to determine the legitimacy of access requests. Some leading MFA providers like Okta, Ping Identity, and Duo offer context-aware MFA as part of additional entitlements. By analyzing these contextual factors, access management systems can dynamically adapt and apply appropriate authentication methods. This trend enhances security and ensures a more user-friendly experience, balancing robust protection and user convenience.
- Passwordless Authentication
As the vulnerabilities associated with traditional passwords become increasingly evident, the move towards passwordless authentication is gaining momentum. Passwordless authentication eliminates the need for users to remember complex passwords, reducing the risk of credential-related security breaches. Various methods fall under the umbrella of passwordless authentication, including biometrics, one-time password (OTP), and device-based authentication. With the biggest news breaker is Google offering passwordless access to G-Suite, the aim is to provide a secure and user-friendly experience while minimizing the reliance on easily compromised passwords. This trend aligns with the industry’s push for a more frictionless and secure user authentication process.
- Zero Trust Security Model
The traditional approach to security relies on a perimeter-based model, assuming that once inside the network, users could be trusted. However, the increasing sophistication of cyber threats has prompted a paradigm shift towards a Zero Trust Security Model. The bottomline for this model stands “never trust, always verify.” Zero Trust emphasizes continuously verifying the user’s identity and device status, regardless of location or network. Authentication is a key component of this model, with access management employing stringent protocols to validate users and devices at every interaction. This approach provides a proactive and adaptive security posture, reducing the risky unauthorized access and potential security breaches. Although zero trust network access is currently offered by enterprise providers like Cisco, Skyhigh Security, Zscaler, Cloudflare, and Akamai, to name a few, the merits and usefulness of ZTNA as an alternative to VPN prove to be an upsell for the zero trust model.
- Blockchain-based Authentication
Blockchain technology features decentralized and tamper-resistant nature, with applications beyond cryptocurrencies. Blockchain-based authentication is emerging as a secure and transparent solution in access management. By leveraging distributed ledger technology, authentication processes can be decentralized, reducing the risk of a single point of failure, which proved to be a threat in the case of traditional authentication mechanisms like Kerberos, LDAP, NTLM, etc. Blockchain authentication ensures the integrity of identity records and access permissions, making it difficult for malicious actors to manipulate or compromise sensitive information. Additionally, the transparency of blockchain transactions enhances auditability, providing organizations with a clear record of access events and potential security incidents. While still in its early stages, the adoption of blockchain-based authentication is expected to grow as the technology matures.
- Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust Assessment
The need for real-time risk assessment and adaptive trust mechanisms has become paramount in the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust Assessment (CARTA) is an emerging trend that dynamically integrates risk evaluation into the access management process. Unlike static authentication methods, CARTA assesses risk factors throughout the user’s session, adjusting access permissions based on changing circumstances. CARTA incorporates contextual data, including user behavior, device health, and threat intelligence feeds. Access management systems can identify anomalies and potential security threats by analyzing these factors in real-time. For example, a user attempting to access sensitive information from an unfamiliar location or device. In that case, CARTA might prompt additional authentication measures or temporarily restrict access until the risk is mitigated. Organizations can enhance their security posture and respond promptly to potential breaches by continuously evaluating the risk associated with user interactions. CARTA complements existing authentication protocols, providing an additional layer of defense in the face of evolving and dynamic cybersecurity challenges.
Access management is a cornerstone of cybersecurity, and the evolving landscape demands adaptive and robust authentication protocols. The emerging trends discussed in this article – biometric authentication, multi-factor authentication, passwordless authentication, the Zero Trust Security Model, blockchain-based authentication, and CARTA – collectively contribute to a more resilient and user-friendly access management ecosystem.
As organizations face challenges of securing digital assets, staying abreast of these trends becomes imperative. The future of access management lies in the seamless integration of innovative authentication protocols that prioritize both security and user experience, ensuring a dynamic and effective defense against evolving cyber threats.