Iwas going to submit this column to my editor on time this month, really, but getting online was just too hard. So I gave up. And it is late.

That would seem a weak excuse at best for poor work habits, but a recent study, Moving Beyond Passwords: Consumer Attitudes on Online Authentication, commissioned by the company Nok Nok and done by The Ponemon Group, is instructive about human behavior and the challenges your enterprise might face with identification, authentication and access.

Why might this matter? First, physical and logical identity and access control is the most frequent convergence point in enterprises. Second, because it sort of says that buying great technology that is effective, per se, but difficult to use will meet resistance, reduce productivity, create a service nightmare, cost too much to support and ultimately have to be replaced by the person that replaces you.

Noted once again, managing cyber risk is a business problem. If only addressed as a technology issue of computing power over human behavior, then it will circle back as an even larger business problem.

Let’s look at the convergence issue. The first convergence “concept” was merging physical access with network access. It had a variety of flavors, but the most common was that your ID badge upon entering your facility disabled your VPN or created an alert if you were physically in your facility but attempting to access the network externally, nd vice versa. But that case study is ancient today. The perimeter that security used to defend is gone. The definition of those entering a facility or logging onto a network is simply: “users.” And BYOD has made work devices personal devices and personal devices work devices. How do you authenticate identity in this complex environment?

And while there are technologies that can do this, they may be met with resistance and ultimately a “the post office lost my letter” excuse. Back to Ponemon’s study of consumers (about 2,000 in the U.S., UK and Germany) about passwords and their response when faced with authentication challenges:

  • Passwords are too hard to remember
  • They take too long to reset
  • The Internet site locks users out after failing too frequently

And, like me and my deadline….. They just give up. And while the respondents faced difficulties logging into a website, they did not believe the increased difficulty made that website any more secure than sites they were more easily able to access. Hmmmm.

So, what does this tell us? Users (your customers) believe authentication is important, but they want to be authenticated and simply identified. Interestingly, if consumers trust the organization, biometrics is acceptable to use for authentication. Voice recognition and facial scan are the most acceptable types of biometric authentication. Least acceptable in the U.S. and UK is an iris scan. In Germany, least favored are fingerprints. While you have many options on this important front, balancing convenience with security to match your enterprise’s culture is the first step.

You can read more about passwords and one group that is working to save you time and money with passwords and their challenges in this month’s Security Talk.  


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Our 2012 Security 500 research and benchmarking report identified cyber security as a critical issue that you face. As a result, we are expanding our editorial each issue, in addition to online and in our eNewsletter, to address cyber risk, crime, espionage, security and more. We are pleased to welcome Steven Chabinsky to the Securityfamily as our new cyber columnist. Steven had a distinguished 17-year career with the FBI, where he helped shape and draft many of America’s most significant cyber and infrastructure protection laws and strategies. Please let us know your concerns, your questions and your victories for this critical business issue. We look forward to your input, and thank you for reading Securitymagazine.