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The Future of Mobile Authentication

  • March 2014
  • 23 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2056648


Table of Contents

"Although information and network security vendors have emphasised the need to move away from passwords to more sophisticated authentication methods, password breaches continue to be everyday news. Advances in mobile authentication products will address this challenge, and provide high security levels and greater end-user experience. Frost & Sullivan has carried out in-depth interviews with start-ups and well-established vendors in the areas of biometrics, smart cards, one-time passwords, and software security and has analysed the aggregated results of the primary research. This research service includes a technology and market analysis of the mobile authentication market for the 2012 to 2017 period."


Although information and network security professionals
emphasise the need to move away from passwords to more
sophisticated authentication methods, password breaches
continue to be everyday news. Moreover, the over-reliance
on passwords and dependence on knowledge-based
authentication systems are making today’s digital world
vulnerable to cyber miscreants with malicious intentions.

The objective of identity authentication is to establish a bond of trust between an organization and the
user who is requesting system access. More specifically, identity authentication ascertains a level of
trust regarding who the user claims to be. The traditional manner to authenticate a user is with a
username and password. Strong authentication refers to methods of authenticating users with a level
of validity beyond that of simple username and password. It follows the principle that the more the
pieces of evidence (authentication factors) the user can present to prove his or her identity, the
stronger this bond of trust becomes. Similarly, the more irrefutable the factors are, the stronger the
bond of trust.

There are several types of authentication factors.
Something the user knows (e.g. password)
Something the user has (e.g. hardware token, mobile phone, USB key)
Something the user is (e.g. fingerprint, voiceprint, facial features)
Something the user does or how the user behaves (e.g. contextual features)

Mobile devices present unique security and authentication challenges as opposed to stationary
devices such as desktop PCs. End users access applications and services often through random
Wi-Fi hotspots, both secured and unsecured. Mobile devices also have a much higher risk of theft
than desktop computers due to not being used in physically secured workplace environments.
Authentication-based attacks already are a major threat to mobile devices, creating market demand
for strong authentication solutions. Authentication vendors are developing products that address
mobile-specific challenges and are augmenting passwords with solutions that strengthen user
authentication, without creating end-user inconvenience.

In this Market Insight, Frost & Sullivan identifies key trends and provides an analysis of how current
mobile authentication products will change in the next one to three years. This market insight is
segmented by “something you know,” “something you have,” and “something you are” factors used in
user identity authentication. It highlights the impact of certain innovations and pinpoints potential
challenges in these areas. In the last section of this market insight, an overview of risk-based
authentication products has been presented.

Mobile Devices Become a Key Target for Attacks

All security vendors and service providers agree that mobile devices will assume a more prominant
role in data breaches in the coming three to five years. On using the number of identified
vulnerabilities to gauge the likelihood of data breach, mobile devices do not yet stand out. IBM’s
X-Force suggests that vulnerabilities affecting mobile devices accounted for just more than four
percent of the total disclosed vulnerabilities in 2013.

According to Symantec, eight percent or , of the vulnerabilities identified in 2012, were mobile orientated.
Although the number of disclosed mobile vulnerabilities remains comparatively low to the number of vulnerabilities in PCs and servers,
this proportion will shift over time with the proliferation of mobile devices and mobile applications.

The bring your own device (BYOD) trend and increasing adoption of mobile banking, commerce,
ticketing, and healthcare applications are key drivers that motivate hackers to target mobile devices.
Mobile financial services and healthcare applications hold personal identifiable information (PII) that,
in the wrong hands, can be monitised or misused, hence, the interest of hackers.

For example, the exponential growth of mobile online commerce explains why hackers will move to
the mobile front. The share of online transactions through mobile devices is estimated at percent
of the total value of online business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions in Europe in 2012 and it is
projected to increase to percent in 2017.

To take advantage of the emergence of mobile devices as the prominent computing platform for online commerce, hackers will focus on developing mobile
malware, expanding mobile botnet networks, and using other tools to automate attacks.

The increasing use of mobile devices, coupled with the inherent weakness of passwords—explored in the next section of this Market Insight—oblige service providers to search for alternative authentication mechanisms that deliver stronger authentication, without introducing end-user inconvenience or prohibitive costs.

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