Authenticating yourself with 4IR tech

Responsibility for authentication moves from individuals to service providers.

Due to the inherent insecure nature of the long-standing use of login passwords for online authentication (see the Hack yourself article in this issue of Beyond Imagining), digital service providers are increasingly using new 4IR Tech for more effective hack-proof authentication.

Authentication refers to the systems that make sure you are who you say you are when logging into online digital services, such as apps, websites and other software tools. Processes for logging in should be easy to use, quick and above all, safe and secure. This requires fancy footwork as these goals are difficult to achieve in combination. Luckily, new 4IR Tech such as artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) are increasingly being used by service providers for accurate authentication.

Biometric authentication methodologies use ANI to authenticate users personally via face recognition and fingerprint scanning.

Specifically useful as built-in features of modern smartphones, these days, the technology is so sophisticated that facial recognition now even works while wearing a facial covering such as a medical mask. Increasingly, service providers are insisting on these almost fool- proof ways to identify individuals.

Some residential living complexes, for instance, have done away with card entry completely, requiring hand scanning for entry. In the past these systems were temperamental and did not work that well, but today their use is seemingly frictionless. (Next time you enter via hand scan, try beating the system by swiping super-fast. You’ll find it’s almost impossible to swipe so fast that the system does not recognise your hand. That’s how reliable they have become.)

Entry and exist NAI systems are now so common that cards are slowly disappearing as authenticators. And how about the idea of a password to gain entry or exit? Unthinkable, right? Biometrics are just so much simpler and more effective.

A smartphone is now the default authentication gateway
Due to the advanced 4IR Tech embedded in new smartphones, these are fast becoming the authentication gateway of choice for a wide variety of identification systems preferred by online service providers. Most banks, for instance, use smartphone for enforced two-step authentication in combination with usernames and passwords, sometimes also insisting on their own apps’ randomised personal identification numbers (PINs) to add an additional layer of authentication.

Without a smartphone, individuals are thus increasingly finding it hard to log in to secure systems. This is a good thing because the most personal device most people use is a smartphone.

Authentication via smartphone happens in a variety of ways, including randomly generated codes via apps such as Google Authenticator, good old SMS for one-time pins (OTPs), biometric authentication for apps, as well as through specially created in-app sign-in systems, for instance using the Google app to sign into other Google apps, such as Maps or Google Docs. You can even set up your device itself as a “security key”, through which the physical device can act as an authenticator via Bluetooth. Apple Pay, as another example, securely authenticates via biometric facial recognition or an iPhone’s own six-digit entry code. In addition, Apple also uses its range of hardware devices to authenticate logins for other devices or accounts. A random code simply pops up in a previously authenticated device that can be used across the Apple ecosystem.

Read more about today’s modern authentication technologies, including an assessment of each method’s level of expected security: Which Authentication Method Is Most Secure?