Knowledge-based authentication is a method of authentication that involves verifying the identity of a user by testing their knowledge of something that only they should know. This can include personal information such as a mother’s maiden name, the name of a favorite pet, or your trusty password.
Possession-based authentication, on the other hand, involves verifying a user’s identity by utilizing something that only they should have. This can include a physical key or token, a mobile phone, or a security card.
Inherence-based authentication involves verifying a user’s identity by testing a physical characteristic that is unique to that individual. This can include a fingerprint, a facial recognition scan, or a retina scan.
All three of these methods of authentication have their strengths and weaknesses:
- Knowledge-based authentication is considered to be less secure than possession-based or inherence-based authentication because personal information can be relatively easy to obtain through data leaks or open-source intelligence.
- Possession-based authentication is generally considered to be more secure than knowledge-based authentication, but it can be vulnerable to theft or loss. Because if you lose that key/token, then you are unfortunately out of luck.
- Inherence-based authentication is generally considered to be the most secure because physical characteristics are difficult to fake or replicate and you’ll have yourself readily available all the time.
One potential weakness of the methods is the reliance on a singular source of authentication. If a hacker can obtain just one source of information or item, they may be able to gain unauthorized access to the system. This can be remediated by using multiple forms of authentication, which is seen as best practice.
Another potential weakness is that these methods can be inconvenient for users. This goes into a wider discussion on Security vs. Convenience, but we can delve deeper into that later.
An example, however, is that knowledge-based authentication may require users to remember and provide personal information that they may not have readily available. Possession-based authentication may require users to carry an additional item with them at all times. Inherence-based authentication may require users to provide a physical characteristic such as a fingerprint or a retina scan and thus would need the associated piece of scanning equipment in order to authenticate.
It may seem small, but we all login numerous times a day, and utilizing all these various authentication steps can get tedious and annoying, even for us on the security team. However, these extra measures are necessary and steps can be made to make it more convenient for users.
That is where R.A.D. Security can help by utilizing convenient solutions to help your users manage their passwords, multi-factor authentication, and Single Sign-On portals. Our management helps keep your accounts secure by adding numerous layers and policies that work to reduce the risk of account compromise.
Overall, the use of knowledge, possession, or inherence-based authentication can provide an additional layer of security for verifying a user’s identity, but they should not be relied upon as the sole method of authentication. It is vital to use a combination of different authentication methods and enforcement policies to provide the most secure access possible.