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Authentication as a Service (AaaS) Solutions

Mike Engle

Authentication as a service (AaaS) is becoming the extra level of security every company needs in the ever evolving business landscape of remote work.

What is authentication as a service? 

Authentication as a service (AaaS) is an emerging way for businesses to handle identity and access management (IAM) by offloading the complexities of management to a dedicated provider. It uses strong authentication methods and cloud computing and provides an overall better user experience.

What Is Authentication and How Can It Work as a Service?

Authentication is a complex process that combines several layers of functionality for a single purpose: to verify user credentials and allow access to system resources. Traditionally, authentication services are embedded into the systems they protect and require a large investment from either the system administrator or the company in terms of money, maintenance, time, and expertise.

That’s because implementing and using an authentication system calls for a deep knowledge of how to use that system correctly, how to manage and secure digital identities as part of that solution, and what to do when something goes wrong that could expose the private information of users and their accounts.

With the onset of widespread cloud infrastructure and computing, the notion of traditionally centralized functionality being offered “as a service” has become a model for more effective and efficient software and hardware infrastructure.

Software, infrastructure, operating systems, security, and storage: all of these features are being rebuilt and repackaged as cloud subscription services that businesses can essentially integrate into their existing operations. Authentication is no different, and providers are now offering authentication as a service (AaaS) to customers.

What is AaaS?

So, what is AaaS? Essentially, AaaS outsources identity management, authentication and authorizations to a cloud platform, managed by a third-party vendor for more optimal and secure systems. As such, it includes several different functions as part of its architecture:

  • Identity Management (IDM)
  • Authentication Management and Strategies
  • Authorization and Access Control Systems and Policies
  • Key and Certificate Management

Benefits of AaaS

Why are AaaS solutions more optimal? There are several reasons:

  • Security: Authentication is intimately tied to compliance and security. Deploying and maintaining a system can be challenging, if not prohibitive, for many organizations who don’t have the expertise or resources to do so.

    A managed solution allows client organizations to use strong authentication while a vendor dedicated to security and compliance can handle those complexities without distraction.

  • Scalability: Cloud platforms scale, and cloud-based services are no exception. Client organizations using AaaS solutions can rely on that scalability as their businesses grow and shrink, with cloud-allocated resources matching their needs.

  • Compliance: A dedicated AaaS provider will most likely work within one or several different industries, and as such, work to build solutions that meet regulations in those jurisdictions.

    An authentication vendor handling IAM compliance is able to relieve their clients from managing compliance in specific industries (HIPAA, PCI DSS), for specific government jurisdictions (GDPR, SCA, PSD2) or for different frameworks (IAL2, AAL2, FIDO2).

  • Variety: Since an AaaS vendor will dedicate significant resources to managing their solution, they will most likely have implemented several options for security. This can include multiple forms of multi-factor authentication (MFA), biometrics, identity proofing, and compliant physical identification measures.

One of the more vital implications of these benefits is that having an expert third party dedicate their efforts to authentication and identity management makes that aspect of your system more robust, scalable, and responsive to your needs. That being said, it is still important to vet your AaaS vendors before implementing their services and conduct audits of vendor relationships annually as a part of doing business.

How Does AaaS Support Security and Anti-Fraud Efforts?

In our modern cloud-driven society, IAM is a critical aspect of cybersecurity and data theft prevention. Hackers are regularly attacking cloud applications and resources through their systems to find that one weakness that could compromise the entire system.

Of course, this reality makes managing authentication and identity security even more critical than ever before. It isn’t enough, then, to state that your business doesn’t have the capacity to properly audit, implement, and maintain an IAM solution because too much relies on that solution protecting user data.

What Are the Consequences of Poor IAM Maintenance?

Consequences like identity theft or vulnerabilities due to shared hardware resources, and system destruction can all follow from one ill-managed vulnerability in an identity verification system.

Because an AaaS provider is, ideally, dedicated to developing secure technologies, they are uniquely situated to combat attacks. Due to having a combination of advanced security measures, MFA features, and security specialists, an AaaS provider can prevent security issues better and more comprehensively than an organization managing such situations in-house.

Some of the advanced measures a third-party vendor and specialist can provide include the latest security technology, dedicated security consultants, and anomaly detection. The last measure, which involves developing risk profiles from user activities, can identify fraud issues before fraud occurs.

What Should I Look for in an Authentication Service Provider?

Whether it’s security, scalability, or fraud prevention, AaaS solutions bring a lot to the table for small businesses and enterprise companies. However, not all providers are created equal.

Here are some services and features you should consider in your next AaaS provider:

  • Advanced MFA: Any AaaS provider should include a selection of authentication methods to build an identity authentication scheme that meets your business and compliance needs.

  • Relevant Compliance: Many providers offer different types of compliance. This can include industry-specific compliance for frameworks like HIPAA or PCI DSS or identity-based compliance, like IAL2, AAL2 and FIDO2, to meet high-level identity proofing requirements. Select a provider that meets, and if possible, exceeds minimum requirements.
  • Advanced Biometrics: Fingerprint scans and facial scans are pretty common in consumer and business technology. A solid AaaS solution provider should also offer more advanced biometrics like LiveID and VoiceID which leverage facial features and voice recognition (respectively) to prove identity.

  • Identity Proofing: Identity proofing, or the practice of using live and document-based verification, helps solve identity theft and fraud issues. With proofing, a solution can verify that a user attempting to access a specific account is who they say they are.

    This approach helps address gaps in some common forms of authentication, namely those that allow individuals not associated with an identity to enter stolen credentials. A robust AaaS provider will have many options to support the onboarding of citizen identity from any country and with multiple workflow options.

  • Secure Identity Management and User Ownership: Centralized identity management can serve as a honeypot for hackers while also presenting additional ethical issues regarding how users access and own their digital identities. Many identity management and AaaS providers are turning to decentralized storage using blockchain technology to address these challenges.

 

Conclusion

Third-party authentication and identity management are revolutionizing how we secure our systems and protect user data. But many providers aren’t taking the necessary steps to address challenges now and in the future.

That’s because our modern conception of security has to change. While a step in the right direction, MFA and biometrics aren’t enough to address the increasingly sophisticated attacks we face every day.

1Kosmos is changing how we approach authentication and ID management. We combine advanced biometrics, identity proofing, and frictionless user experiences to mitigate the primary contributors to unsecure systems: poor technology and poor user cyber hygiene.

Furthermore, we leverage blockchain technology and mobile networks to provide secure, private, and decentralized identity management that resists cyberattacks and places digital ID ownership back in the user’s hands.

Towards this goal, 1Kosmos provides the following features:

  • Private Blockchain: 1Kosmos protects personally identifiable information (PII) in a private blockchain and encrypts digital identities in secure enclaves only accessible through advanced biometric verification. Our ledger is immutable, secure, and private, so there are no databases to breach or honeypots for hackers to target.

  • Identity Proofing: BlockID includes Identity Assurance Level 2 (NIST 800-63A IAL2), detects fraudulent or duplicate identities, and establishes or reestablishes credential verification.

  • Streamlined User Experience: The distributed ledger makes it easier for users to onboard digital IDs. It’s as simple as installing the app, providing biometric information and any required identity proofing documents, and entering any information required under ID creation. The blockchain allows these users more control over their digital identity while making authentication more straightforward.

  • Identity-Based Authentication Orchestration: We push biometrics and authentication into a new “who you are” paradigm. BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through credential triangulation and validation.

  • Integration with Secure MFA: BlockID and its distributed ledger readily integrate with a standard-based API to operating systems, applications, and MFA infrastructure at AAL2. BlockID is also FIDO2 certified, protecting against attacks that attempt to circumvent multi-factor authentication.

  • Cloud-Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API, including private blockchains.

If you are ready to discover how digital identity and authentication innovations are changing security, watch our webinar on Authentication: Hope-Based vs. Identity-Based. Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of 1Kosmos products and services.