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Risk Based Authentication – Everything You Need to Know!

risk based authentication

Organizations have incorporated multiple security mechanisms- Two-Factor Authentication, Multi Factor-Authentication, Firewalls, Data Encryption, Passwordless Authentication, Packet Filters, etc. However, the attackers are just as vigilant as we are. No matter how many security mechanisms an organization deploys, attackers always keep a hawk’s eye on crucial digital identities, as Window Snyder, Chief Security Officer, Fastly once said: “One single vulnerability is all an attacker need.”

So, each time a digital identity is created, one must assume that it is subject to cybercrimes. With security mechanisms, the risk may reduce but they will never go away, which is why Risk-Based Authentication (RBA) should be a part of your organization’s security system.

What is Risk-Based Authentication?

RBA is a technique that keeps a ‘risk score’ for every access attempt. The risk score is calculated based on a certain pre-defined set of rules, which varies depending on the organization’s security requirements.

For example, an employee tries to log in to his device from a location the system doesn’t recognize. The employee is asked to verify his identity with other methods – possibly, a challenge-response question, or an OTP. Once, the employee verifies his identity successfully; he gets access.

Here, since the location was unknown, the system sensed a ‘risk’ in the login attempt. If the employee takes multiple and prolonged attempts to verify his identity, his risk score goes higher, indicating the vulnerability to cyber threats.

Therefore, Risk-Based Authentication largely prevents unauthorized access and combats potential data breaches that may cost an organization heavily.

Now, considering the degree of security Risk-Based Authentication provides to an organization, say you intend to deploy RBA. But, what factors or best practices should you consider for the same?

Risk-Based Authentication Implementation best practices

Performing a risk assessment helps in building an effective Risk-Based Authentication model. The organization must be clear on the kind of risk it may bear. The following factors can assist in risk assessment:

  • The number of users: The more number of users, the larger the system and the higher the chances of security hazards.
  • The critical importance of the system: Every organization has systems and accesses that need to be secured proactively. It is essential to keep a record of how many such systems are present in the organization as these are the ones to be compromised the most in the event of a data breach.
  • The sensitivity of the system: Are the existing systems protected with MFA, 2FA, or other security mechanisms like Firewalls or Antivirus that are comprehensive and up-to-date?

After risk assessment, you may opt for an ideal Risk-Based Authentication model. Most often, organizations limit their RBA implementations to security questions; while this protocol is cost-effective and easy-to-deploy, security questions are not as secure as you’d think.

Out of all the authentication protocols, security questions are the easiest ones to crack. Therefore, it is advisable to choose from other strong authentication techniques such as biometrics, push notifications, OTP, security keys, tokens, or smartcards.

For instance, if you opt for simple security questions such as, “What is the name of your high school,” this information is available with your friends, colleagues, and possibly on your social media pages as well. However, an OTP or push notification is unique to each user, and it typically expires within seconds. As you punch in the OTP or approve the push notification, the fact that it is ‘you’ who is accessing the account is highly reliable.

Nevertheless, if you still insist on opting for security questions in your RBA model, you may want to add other authentication techniques as well.

Once you deploy Risk-Based Authentication within your organization, you may question its utility and importance. So, let’s address this question

What are the benefits of Risk-Based Authentication?

  •  Mitigates risks and improves security
    A comprehensive risk assessment based on login attempts, login failures, IP address, location, etc. is done before granting access. It prevents unauthorized access, mitigates risks, and invariably improves the security within the organization.
  • Flexible to risk assessment
    The CISO, IT head, and the management can decide on a risk threshold that best suits their organization and deploy Risk-Based Authentication accordingly; making this authentication flexible to various types of risk assessment.
  • An alternative to other security measures
    Often, organizations tend to spend a fortune on multiple security mechanisms and their deployment. However, sometimes only an effective RBA is enough; it can be a fallback to expensive and complex security systems and prove to be equally efficient in enhancing security.
  • Cost-effective
    It is estimated that security spending to curb cyberattacks will reach 133.7 billion by 2022. Cyber crimes are increasing at an alarming rate, and organizations cannot compromise on the security costs. However, RBA needs IT professionals to leverage the right technology, and this can make the solution extremely cost-effective.
  • CJIS Security Policy compliant
    The CJ  Security Policy gave an RBA use case where a user has moved office locations and requires email access (containing Criminal Justice Information) via an Outlook Web Access (OWA) client utilizes a risk-based authentication (RBA) solution. The process of granting access depending on RBA’s risk assessment was deemed satisfied by The CJIS Security Policy requirements for RBA.

Therefore, considering these benefits, the RBA market is seeing massive growth.

Adoption of Risk-Based Authentication

It is predicted that cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021. The digital world is going to only see a sharp increase in cybercrimes during the coming years, and this fact has created a sense of urgency in adopting Risk-Based Authentication methods.

The global risk-based authentication market stood at $2.3 billion in 2018 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of more than 18.8% to reach $6.5 billion by 2024, on account of surging enterprise breaches and increasing adoption of Risk-Based Authentication solutions in various industries such as BFSI and healthcare.

Risk-Based Authentication with Cross Identity

Cross Identity conforms to Risk-Based Authentication is an excellent technique for friction-less security within the organization.

Our product- CI uses real-time intelligence to calculate a user’s risk score based on factors such as device, location, and network connection. Once the risk is assessed, the system will either:

  • Allow the user access or
  • Prompt another level of authentication or
  • Deny access if the risk score is high

Drop in a line at to know more about how CI’s Risk-Based Authentication mechanism will improve your organization’s security exponentially.

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