Authentication Options: What Users Want Matters

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    Study Finds Payment Executives at Security Crossroads

    The flip side of looking at what enterprises must do to strengthen identity authentication and privacy protections is asking, “what will users tolerate?” As with our Congressional representation, most of us will say we are extremely concerned with the present state of affairs, but when it comes time to make a change in our habits and routines, or to vote, we stick with the status quo.

    With mobile technology changing everything – or offering the potential to do so — telecommunications and information services company Telstra delved into both sides of this question for its new report, “Mobile Identity: The Fusion of Financial Services, Mobile and Identity.” Turns out that talking to over 4,000 financial services consumers, focusing on the Generation X and Generation Y age ranges, produces complicated results. These consumers are largely fearful of ever being without their financial applications – they are “no-finapp-phobic,” according to Rocky Scopelliti, Global Industry Executive for Banking, Finance and Insurance for Telstra. They also cite financial and personal information security as their number-one priority in selecting financial institutions with which to interact.

    This addiction to mobile access to financial services and info may be tipping users toward acceptance of the idea that they may have to give up a little convenience, or even a little privacy, to get what they want. The Telstra report data found that a quarter of U.S. consumers would consider sharing their own DNA information with their financial institution for use in authentication. And a third of them said they would be willing to pay an extra $20 per year for improved mobile data security – the highest median price indicated among the seven countries in which Telstra surveyed consumers.

    A caution is in order, at this point, though. When IT Business Edge’s Sue Marquette Poremba recently spoke with a number of security experts about the future of passwords and authentication approaches, more than one voiced concern about user acceptance. For instance, Nok Nok Labs President and CEO Phillip Dunkelberger said, “Whenever we introduce barriers to logging into devices, or making payments, then the user becomes frustrated.”

    So, though two-thirds of the U.S. consumers in Telstra’s report said they think two-factor authentication incorporating biometrics of some kind would improve mobile data security, the number expressing satisfaction after implementation might prove to be different. For proof, keep reading the report statistics:

    • 44 percent of consumers use a small number of passwords multiple times across multiple accounts.
    • 18 percent use one password for all digital accounts.
    • 25 percent write down passwords.

    For the financial institutions, Telstra’s advice is to keep the focus on user trust and comfort with changes made to data security and privacy protections. While technically, the organization makes the final decision in what it will or will not implement, the consumers will make the final decision about whether they will accept even the changes they say they want:

    “Most institutions seeking more secure ways to identify and authenticate customers face a balancing act between increased security and the risk of increasing friction for customers.”

    Kachina Shaw is managing editor for IT Business Edge and has been writing and editing about IT and the business for 15 years. She writes about IT careers, management, technology trends and managing risk. Follow Kachina on Twitter @Kachina and on Google+

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