Active Authentication

What Is Active Authentication?

Active authentication is a way of securely authenticating a user through a challenge and response mechanism. The user is challenged to prove their identity using something they know, something in their possession, or something inherent to them (such as biometric data). If the user can meet the challenge, the authentication is successful.

One of the main benefits of active authentication is that it is more secure than username and password combinations, which are relatively easy to steal or hack. It can be used to deliver multi-factor authentication for a range of purposes. If you need to authenticate users making purchases on your ecommerce site, logging into company systems, accessing their iGaming accounts, and so on, active authentication is a sensible choice.

At the heart of active authentication is its reliance on something unique to the user – be that knowledge, a personal possession, or a physical factor. However, using it comes with one caveat: Active authentication introduces friction into the user experience. This can irritate customers, leading to increased customer churn.

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How Does Active Authentication Work?

Active authentication works by using something unique to an individual to confirm their identity. The active authentication process poses a challenge, to which the user must respond. For example, this could be in the form of a one-time passcode sent to the user’s phone. The idea is that only the genuine individual can meet the challenge.

Recently, biometrics has become popular as part of active authentication processes, but biometrics is not the only means of actively authenticating users. In addition to biometric-based measures, active authentication can be both knowledge-based and possession-based.

Active authentication works by throwing up a barrier between your business and your users. Without meeting your challenge, the user cannot access their account, your services, or any other secure information you are protecting with your active authentication system. This can help keep your website or system safer from fraudsters, for example by protecting genuine users’ accounts from account takeover fraud attempts.

Examples of Active Authentication

Active authentication takes many forms. Let’s look at a few examples to provide a flavor of what it can entail:

  • Biometric-based authentication could challenge the user to scan their fingerprint or iris. It could also use facial recognition software that prompts users to take certain actions, such as moving their eyes or head in a particular direction.
  • Knowledge-based authentication is usually posed as a question and response, asking for information only the user should know. Examples include their mother’s maiden name, the name of their first pet, what they wanted to be when they grew up, and so on.
  • Possession-based authentication is where the user needs something in their possession, such as a software token or a smartphone that a one-time passcode is sent to.

Businesses wanting maximum security for their authentication process can (and certainly should) implement multiple measures such as those listed above.

Why Should a Business Use Active Authentication?

Businesses should use active authentication as part of protecting their data and systems from unauthorized access, fraud, and other financial crimes. Active authentication seeks to ensure that only those who should have access do have access. It is part of a robust approach to data security – one that is far more secure than simple username and password-based authentication.

This is not to say that active authentication is flawless. Fraudsters are continually evolving their tactics and making use of new technology, such as using deepfake tech to pass biometric authentication challenges. This is why active authentication is best used in tandem with a range of other fraud-fighting processes, such as digital footprinting.

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The Importance of Biometrics in Active Authentication

The importance of biometrics in active authentication results from people’s faces, fingerprints, voices, and retinas providing a unique means of identifying them. Biometric data is also relatively hard to fake or crack compared with other forms of authentication fraud. 

If you use facial recognition or your fingerprint to unlock your smartphone, you’re already familiar with biometric authentication

Given its high potential for security, especially when compared to less robust authentication methods, many businesses are adopting biometric authentication, making it an important active authentication method both now and in the longer-term.

Allied Market Research projects that the mobile biometrics market alone will grow in value to $184.8 billion by 2031, reflecting the increasing adoption of this technology.

How Does Active Authentication Help Fight Identity Fraud?

Active authentication fights identity fraud and synthetic identity fraud by verifying that users are genuine when they log on to a service, make a purchase, and so on.

It can stop fraudsters in their tracks by requiring criminals to provide something they don’t have, whether that be knowledge of a password or the user’s fingerprint.

For your business to make life harder for fraudsters, implementing active authentication is crucial.

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