Multifactor Authentication

Authentication can be accomplished with one factor, two factors, or multiple factors. Which one is the weakest level of authentication and which is the most secure and why? When would a more secure system be required? Be able to explain these multifactor authentication methods: password protection, token presence, voice biometrics, facial recognition, ocular-based methodology, hand geometry, vein recognition, fingerprint scanner, thermal image recognition, and geographical location. What are some challenges of multiple factor authentication when using biometrics? There is a lot of interesting information covered in this article that you do not need to memorize, but that you should be aware of.

5. Discussion and Future Prospects

Today, authentication matters more than ever before. In the digital era, most users will rely on biometrics in matters concerning systems security and authorization to complement the conventional passwords. Even though privacy, security, usability, and accuracy concerns are still in place, MFA becomes a system that promises the security and ease of use needed for modern users while acquiring access to sensitive data.

Without a doubt, biometrics are one of the key layers to enable the future of MFA. This functionality is often regarded not standalone but as a supplement to traditional authentication approaches like passwords, smart cards, and PINs. Combining two or more authentication mechanisms is expected to provide a higher level of security when verifying the user. The expected evolution towards MFA is rooted in the synergistic biometric systems that allow for significantly improved user experience and MFA system throughput, which would be beneficial for various applications (see Figure 9). Such systems will intelligently couple all three factor types, namely, knowledge, biometrics, and ownership.

Figure 9. Biometric MFA for the airport scenario.

Since conventional single-factor systems of today are based on only one parameter (unimodality property), if its acquisition is affected in any way (be it noise or disruption), the overall accuracy will degrade. As a reminder, collecting a single type of non-knowledge related data, e.g., biometrics, could exclude part of the user population when particular disabilities are present. Moreover, spoofing this only factor is a relatively simple task.

One of the most promising directions in MFA is behavior-based biometrics providing entirely new ways of authenticating the users. The solutions that are based on muscular memory, e.g., writing or gestures, coupled with machine learning become more prominent examples. Already today, software can extrapolate user handwriting and reach the confidence levels of above 99.97 percent. More forward-looking MFA sources to be utilized in the nearest future are heart and brain. The attractive area of ECG and EEG analysis is also expected to provide unique identification samples for each subject.

Another military-inspired research activity already shows the capability to identify the users based on the way they interact with computer. This approach takes into consideration the typing speed, typical spelling mistakes, writing rhythm, and other factors. The appropriate terminology is not settled yet, and some call this methodology Passive Biometrics, while others name it Continuous Authentication. It results in having a unique fingerprint of the user–computer interaction pattern, which is extremely difficult to replicate.

All of the discussed MFA scenarios require significant memory resources to statistically analyze the input data and store the biometric samples even if utilizing different optimization techniques. A very promising direction of the MFA development is therefore in the area of neural networks and Big Data. Here, many successful applications have been known to the community for more than a decade. Examples could be found in where conventional factors, such as iris, retina, fingerprints, etc., are considered. Utilizing neural networks for the next-generation biometrics is the most likely way to proceed due to presently high levels of the analysis complexity.

In summary, biometric technology is a prominent direction driven by the mobile device market. The number of smartphones to be sold only in the US is expected to reach 175 million units by 2018 with the corresponding market to exceed $50.6B in revenues by 2022. It is believed that a strong push towards the utilization of biometrics in many areas of life is imminent, since most of the flagman devices are already equipped with the fingerprint scanner and facial recognition technology in addition to convention PIN codes.

This work provided a systematic overview of the state-of-the-art in both technical and usability issues, as well as the major challenges in currently available MFA systems. In this study, we discussed the evolution of authentication from single- through two- and towards multi-factor systems. Primarily, we focused on the MFA factors constituting the state-of-the-art, future possible directions, respective challenges, and promising solutions. We also proposed an MFA solution based on the reversed Lagrange polynomial as an extension of Shamir's Secret Sharing scheme, which covers the cases of authenticating the user even if some of the factors are mismatched or absent. It also helps qualify the missing factors without disclosing the sensitive data to the verifier.