Importance and Implementation of Risk-Based Authentication

risk-based authentication.
risk-based authentication.

Organisations around the world are currently in flux. A growing number of organisations are undergoing digital transformation at the enterprise level. As a result, customers and employees alike need continuous essential data access. Some of the stakeholders regularly requiring access include remote workers, online customers and business partners. While digital transformation plays a significant role in improving data accessibility and network connectivity, it has also increased data vulnerability. 

The total number of breaches in data increased from 22% to 36% from 2020 to 2021. To minimise the risk of unauthorised data access, enterprises need effective identity verification and authentication systems in place. A risk-based authentication system calculates whether specific user behaviour is suspicious or dangerous based on several predetermined characteristics. This includes evaluating user behaviour, their geographical location and the devices they use. 

A business is as accountable for protecting customer data as they are about safeguarding employee and corporate data and processes. Using appropriate additional user authentication solutions is critical for enterprise-level cybersecurity systems to ensure data protection and authorised access. This is where risk-based authentication plays a crucial role. RBA or risk-based authentication systems are an organisation’s best chance against malicious hackers, unauthorised personnel and data fraud.

What is Risk-Based Authentication?

RBA or Risk-Based Authentication systems apply different levels of difficulty and security to user identity authentication processes. What determines the level of difficulty is the likelihood of the system being compromised in case this user gains access to its data. With an increase in risk, the process of authentication becomes more restrictive and comprehensive. 

Every user today has encountered risk-based authentication protocols at some point or the other. While accessing a bank account while in a different country, users might be asked a higher number of account security questions. Some of the most common risk assessment criteria include the user’s IP address, geographical location and anti-virus software status. 

Depending on the level of risk ascertained, the RBA system asks for additional steps in the authentication process. This could be:

  • Verification links sent to a user’s email ID
  • A one-time password generated from a user’s authentication app
  • An OTP sent to their email ID or phone number
  • Preset security questions determined by the user

Risk-based authentication is not the same as MFA or multi-factor authentication. The latter is a static method of authentication where an additional security layer is required irrespective of the risk on a particular authentication request. Meanwhile, RBA is non-static and adds additional security layers only if the risk profile demands it. Consequently, RBA ensures a more seamless user experience. However, most enterprises still restrict RBA to user authentication, when it can be used for payments, signups, and several types of digital transactions. 

Implementing Risk-Based Authentication at the Enterprise Level:

There are two ways to deploy RBA measures for an enterprise.

  1. Developing an in-house RBA system
  2. Partnering with an RBA system specialist

Consider the first scenario. Creating an in-house RBA system is an option several enterprises choose. However, there are several questions to answer before that.

  • What will it cost to develop a risk-based authentication system?
  • Does the enterprise’s internal team have the expertise and time to maintain and develop a reliable in-house RBA system?
  • Can the in-house system evolve and keep up with advancing data breaches and attacks?

A handful of organisations might have the time, resources and capabilities to create an in-house RBA system. However, it might leave fewer resources and personnel to focus on the core business and could reduce productivity in the long run. In this case, the second route is the smart way to go.

While choosing a partner for risk-based authentication services, there are several functionalities that an RBA provider must provide:

  • Ease of maintenance and implementation
  • Out-of-the-box rules and unconventional risk profiling for fast configuration
  • Customisation of the statistical or AI/ML models of a solution based on internal expertise
  • Integration with existing strategies for authentication
  • Comprehensive CIAM features that go beyond RBA to ensure reliability on a vendor and provide a seamless user experience
  • Effectiveness in preventing account takeovers or fraud instances in real-time

After evaluating, assessing and settling on a final vendor, enterprises must test their RBA solution to ensure a seamless user experience that minimises risk without driving away users. 

For any organisation today, ensuring the safety of customers, clients and data should be the top priority. In today’s age of sophisticated and innovative cybercrimes, conventional methods like single usernames and passwords are not enough to ensure access and data security. The most obvious following step while managing real-time information and data confidentiality is risk-based authentication. For maximised efficacy of RBA systems, businesses continue to offer new methods of authentication using new technologies like AI and blockchain. While the challenges will continue to evolve and never be entirely eliminated, RBA is the best way to prevent data fraud at the enterprise level.

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