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Yahoo! breach news is shocking but not surprising – what to do now?

by Avivah Litan  |  September 23, 2016  |  Comments Off on Yahoo! breach news is shocking but not surprising – what to do now?

The 2014 compromise of a half billion user records at Yahoo! by a state-sponsored actor is shocking but not surprising. For years, we have been noting (what our clients have told us),  which is that:

  • State sponsored actors are buying up enormous amounts of stolen identity and account data for intelligence purposes (See Where has all the Stolen Data Gone ) in order to steal information and assets from companies in the U.S. and across the globe.
  • Fraudsters use stolen credentials and data to take over accounts at online service providers in widespread and hard-to-detect ‘credential stuffing’ attacks (see  Where have all our passwords gone).

Identity Proofing Solutions

Identity proofing is clearly a top global fraud issue.  What can organizations who need to prove electronic identities do to overcome this issue?

In our last blog, we summarized our bottom-line recommendation that organizations REDUCE reliance on STATIC data, such as the data compromised in the Yahoo! breach, and instead INCREASE their reliance on DYNAMIC information. (See The Global Identity Dilemma: Static Biometrics are NOT the answer ).

Here we present a four-layer identity proofing approach (See Absolute Identity Proofing is Dead; Use Dynamic Identity Assessment ) that outlines the types of measures that should be implemented to achieve high confidence in user identities. These measures should be taken upon every risky transaction, such as new account creation, log in, changes to profile data (e.g. address, phone number), and financial transactions such as purchases, money transfers, use of stored value in loyalty programs and other electronic wallets, and more.

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User authentication is not a binary yes/no process anymore. The days of confidently verifying an identity based on a password or even a static biometric are over.  A continuous layered identity proofing approach must be used because static credentials can and have been compromised and accounts taken over.

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Out of band push notification – not a panacea either

Several seasoned fraud managers I speak with are turning to out-of-band push notifications on mobile phones in order to confidently authenticate a user (along with a layered identity proofing approach). This will provide a strong second factor authentication factor, as they plan to verify the phone belongs to the legitimate user through ‘device binding’ during user enrollment.   This sounds like the strongest user authentication method around, especially if it also includes the use of dynamic biometrics on top of the push notification app.

But even this method is bound to be circumvented one day, at the least when fraudsters socially engineer a consumer to authenticate themselves during a fraudulent transaction that the fraudster is conducting surreptitiously against their account                            .

There’s no getting around defense in depth and a layered continuous identity proofing approach. That job is getting harder by the day, as more and more stolen identity-related records sit around in criminal databases, just waiting to be sold and used.  The only comfort I get personally is in the law of statistical averages. I just keep hoping the criminals won’t have enough time to get around to using my identity.  Famous last words…

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Avivah Litan
VP Distinguished Analyst
12 years at Gartner
30 years IT industry

Avivah Litan is a Vice President and Distinguished Analyst in Gartner Research. Her area of expertise includes financial fraud, authentication, access management, identity proofing, identity theft, fraud detection and prevention applications…Read Full Bio




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