Authentication: The real me

Authentication as we use it in the security world is obviously from the word “authentic”, meaning genuine. Today we find most common authentication means are simply fulfilling an already established contract with secret information that only the account owner would posses. This gives no insight that the given user who initially established his account let’s call him Bob is in fact Bob logging into his account or Alice, a third party listener may have somehow obtained Bob’s authentication credentials. Since Bob’s credentials may be a username and password pair, the only thing that protects this account is possessing this secret information. You haven’t missed anything, all I have said is that modern day authentication means rely on secrecy or private information that only the account hold would posses. What if we were able to actually establish that Bob, is the same Bob that initially established his account. Not due to knowledge of a simple pair of username/password credentials, or a selected picture and the like. Rather, what if Bob was somehow able to expose his likes, dislikes, habits, tendencies, interests, etc. and this information may be used to not verify that Bob knows his password, but that Bob is Bob.

The closest thing I have seen that somehow utilizes this is during credit checks. The questions are almost entirely address verification related multiple choice questions. Did you live in the street X?

Imagine you have a browser extension installed. You read an article that makes you “sad”, or makes you “happy”. You click on your “authentication” icon and use an emoji to express what you feel, or perhaps use a few tag keywords to convey your response. This data may be collected and used to build a statistical model to build verification questions for a authentication service. Your web history, emails, shopping tendencies, music you listen to. All of this can be used to provide data to help paint a picture of things that would show “how” you think and how your react.

Pandora does this to provide you with recommended music. The more you show how you like and dislike the recommended music the more you train your station. Imagine if the next time you logged in to “Bob”s account he was asked two questions which songs in this list would you prefer to listen to. This is not ironclad and different types of data can have different results and predictability.

This is a very general idea, but I think that ultimately just as now we can use Facebook and Google as ways to login into our account…imagine if we used our Pandora, Netflix, and Amazon account as seed data to ask us questions to verify our identity!!

I am about to post another idea about CAPTCHA’s but look at this post I remember when this game was around and Google used people to help train/verify its image search results. I could certainly see a game such as this use to both train and verify a user’s identity.

This can become a great deal more abstract. I have read recently about recent efforts in keystroke analysis in identifying by their unique electronic signature.

A bit of a rant, but I think there are some solid ideas here.

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