Delfigo Security - Strong Authentication

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Identity and Authentication Blog

Cost of Overlooking Security in Your BYOD Environment

Adding security to your environment in order to preemptively combat threats is a sound practice, especially when your environment now includes employees and customers accessing critical company information on their mobile devices (BYOD). For busy decision makers with long backlogs, it can be a challenge to quantify the importance of enhancing security before it costs their organizations money and forces them to react.

CheckPoint Technologies has published a mobile security report that brings some of these numbers into focus. An introduction and summary of the report here describes key finding which include:

  • Surge in Personal Mobile Devices Connecting to the Corporate Network – Among companies that allow personal mobile devices, 96 percent say the number of personal devices connecting to their corporate networks is growing, and 45 percent have more than five times as many personal mobile devices as they had two years ago.
  • Mobile Security Incidents Common and Costly for Businesses Large and Small – More than half (52%) of large businesses report mobile security incidents have amounted to more than $500,000 in the past year. Even for 45 percent of SMBs with less than 1000 employees, mobile security incidents exceeded $100,000 in the past year.
  • Mobile Platform with the Greatest Perceived Security Risks - Android was cited by 49 percent of businesses as the platform with greatest perceived security risk (up from 30 percent last year), compared to Apple, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry
  • Corporate Information Not Managed on Mobile Devices – Despite costly mobile incidents, 63 percent of businesses do not manage corporate information on personal devices, and 93 percent face challenges adopting BYOD policies.
  • More Mobile Devices Store Sensitive Customer Information - More than half (53%) of all businesses surveyed report there is sensitive customer information on mobile devices, up from 47 percent last year.



Get BYOD Right

Are organizations getting BYOD wrong? InfoWorld's "The Squeaky Wheel" featured a compelling post by Brian Katz this morning, where he examines what the fundamental goals and principles of BYOD really are, and how companies and organizations "miss the mark" when it comes to the true benefits of BYOD - empowering the user to use their own device, and enabling productivity.

Katz is right to point out that there are a number of emerging vendors targeting organizations who implement BYOD programs. These vendors enable organizations to deploy, manage and provision company resources on a privately owned device. These activities require security solutions that are designed to meet the needs of users accessing company data and applications - and of the companies providing them - including the increased productivity and ease of access users enjoy on their own devices. When this approach is adopted, simple and easy to use security should be at the top of the list for organizations who make their resources available on devices they do not own and do not control. 


Google I/O and User, App and Device Security

As developers who attended Google I/O last week return to their work inspired by  innovative concepts they saw in action in San Francisco, flexible and innovative security should be on their minds. Google's Android operating system now has over 900,000,000 users, and will continue to grow as developers take advantage of the tools and services Google provides, which were the highlight of the conference this year. According to the 5 year product roadmap Google released this month, "stronger authentication" is a priority. As new features, applications and devices are rolled out and adopted, we will see increasing emphasis on securing these new technologies.

Security and user experience can seem to be at odds, but in reality they go hand in hand. Cumbersome security workflow will have an effect on experience, but the opposite is also true - elegant, innovative security designed for the mobile experience, will enhance it. ZDNet published an article last week emphasizing the importance of speed and user experience for increasing conversion for mobile commerce apps. Security is part of that experience, especially where having it extends users' ability to knit technology into their day to day activities. As users adjust to new ways to pay, transfer money or access data, a sense of security will part of what makes these technologies easy to use. User experience will benefit from enhanced mobile security.

Securing mobile technologies, with user experience in mind, will require innovative security solutions that are intuitive, easy to understand, easy to integrate with and easy to support. 


Cloud Authenticaction Processing Generates Cost and Energy Savings

Delfigo recently filed for patent protection on its Cloud Authentication Processing (CAP) and Verification method. The cloud authentication processing method combines enhanced login accuracy and access speed based on multifactor authentication, with significant efficiencies in data processing and storage resulting in substantial resource and cost savings.

“We recognized that there were economic opportunities available here. A more elegant, 'green' approach to multifactor authentication (MFA) significantly reduces processing and storage needs,” said Delfigo’s CEO Ralph A. Rodriguez. “When you are talking about the scale of Facebook, Twitter or Google, who are on their way to authenticating a billion users globally, CPU processing and storage optimization with CAP will reduce energy consumption requirements, enhance scale and result in millions of dollars in annual savings.”

Our team continues to take the lead in developing novel approaches to tackle authentication challenges. With the growth of cloud computing and other high user count systems, companies are faced with processing millions of users over the Internet. Additional data traffic, complex mathematical computation and exponential increases in hardware storage requirements for password, device, network and geo-centric user data will place huge drains on processing resources, related to CPU, memory, bus and circuit board speed in massive cloud data centers. This will in turn increase power and HVAC costs.

Delfigo’s Cloud Authentication Processing and Verification method creates the highest known efficacy of end user login accuracy in relationship to end user login time to access cloud based systems safe and fast. This unique approach is estimated to decrease storage requirements by a 10:1 ratio, and reduce processing requirements as only a single stored entry is utilized to authenticate against prior end user data. This method will save millions of dollars per data center, and an enormous amount of natural resources needed by companies, organizations and countries globally to power and cool equipment.


Is Indifference to Mobile Security The Problem?

Over the past 25 years, the cell phone has evolved from the one dimensional brick phones to the powerful smartphone technology of today. Estimates indicate that smartphone ownership will reach 43% of the US mobile population by 2015 with Gartner stating that sales of smartphones will reach 95 million in 2011. With ever increasing processing power, and hundreds of thousands of applications currently available, the smartphone has rapidly become the primary device for everyday access to social media, banking, commerce, shopping, and personal entertainment.

What is often lost in this love affair with mobility is that the smartphone presents the same level of risk as the PC. The rapid expansion of capabilities and acceptance of these devices as an essential element of our personal and professional life has regrettably coincided with an overall indifference to security. Convenience - in the moment, on the go convenience - trumps any concern for protection of assets. The average user has a wide variety of confidential private data stored on these very personal devices, and estimates show that 40% of business professionals carry sensitive business information as well.

Look no further than the recent articles on Zitmo or DroidDream to see that the risk is real. Zitmo, a variant of the Zeus Trojan, has been adapted to target phones running the Android OS. Users are tricked in to adding a “security component” that they assume comes from their bank, but is really malware. DroidDream, malware that initially exploited a bug in older versions of Android that resulted in 58 apps being pulled from the Android marketplace, recently resurfaced in 4 additional apps in July.

User indifference is often identified as a key part of the problem. The user fails to play the role that security managers expect them to play. They do this for an obvious reason; they do not want to be inconvenienced. Vendors that assume the user should play a key role in security strategy are missing an important element in developing, and implementing strong authentication solutions for the mobile user. The user does not want to be inconvenienced. Security should operate invisibly in the background and not in any way interfere with their user experience.


1. “Smartphone Malware Report” Raising Awareness of the Threats Affecting Mobile Devices

2. Zeus Banking Trojan Hits Android Phones

3. DroidDream Again Appears in Android Market Apps 

4. Smartphone Market Statisitcs

5. Research and Markets – Mobile Phone Biometric Security Report 


FFIEC Finally Releases Supplement to Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment

The much anticipated FFIEC Authentication Guidance was released on June 28, 2011 as a supplement to the very dated 2005 Guidance on Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment.  The complete text of the Supplement to Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment is available on the FFIEC website.

There is not much difference from the draft mistakenly released on the National Credit Union Administration website in 2010. The guidance is weak in a number of areas, specifically the need for multi factor authentication in consumer banking, not just commercial banking; and the failure to address security of mobile banking.

The supplement does emphasize the need for ongoing updates of risk assessments and the need for a layered approach to security. Both recommendations commonly found among best practices for identity and authentication management.

A number of vendors will scramble to re-position their products as multi factor, or attempt to adapt single dimension OTP or challenge response offerings to address the emphasis on risk assessment and layered security. However, there are many current offerings available to address regulatory requirements of 2012. Careful research is essential to identifying an authentication solution  that not only fits yours needs, but does so without adding additional burden to users, and also provides a flexible platform that can adapt and extend to meet the challenges of tomorrow.


  1. Supplement to Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment
  2. BankInfo Security – New Authentication Directives Don't Address Emerging Risks


Protecting Access to electronic Personal Health Information (ePHI)

The HITECH Act contains incentives (and disincentives) designed to accelerate adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems and deliver on the original goals of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These goals are rightly identified as “critical to patient safety, quality of care and reduction of delivery costs.” These are all admirable goals. However, regardless of how admirable, there is little among the many recommendations that address the significant consequences that accompany the rollout of EHR systems.  Electronic medical records contain a vast wealth of personal information, and this information will only become more vulnerable, and more susceptible to potential misuse, as access extends to an ever wider network of consumers and health care providers. As has historically been the case with all information systems, the desire to provide more open access and greater usability is always at odds with genuine concerns for security and privacy.

The Privacy and Security Tiger Team of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT recently released recommendations aimed at addressing this big elephant in the room. They point out that the HIPAA Security Rule requires covered entities to implement procedures to verify that a person or entity seeking access to electronic PHI is the one claimed. However, the Security Rule does not specify authentication options, assurance levels or verification requirements. The Tiger Team’s goal was to establish stronger authentication policy as part of governance for the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN). Their recommendations for authentication of a certified EHR include:

  • Baseline user authentication policies should require more than just user name and password for remote access. At least two factors should be required.
  • Organizations and entities are encouraged to adopt a risk based approach and provide multi factor authentication for sensitive, high risk transactions
  • Minimum two factor authentication of e-prescriptions of controlled substances are required, consistent with the current DEA rule.
  • Meaningful Use Stage 2 certification testing criteria for EHRs should include testing of compliance with the DEA authentication rule

It is refreshing to see direct commentary regarding stringent authentication standards. However, the open access-security conflict is clearly apparent throughout the document. This is evident in statements such as “providers must manage the risk of inappropriate access; however they should not set the identification requirements in a way that discourages or inhibits patients from participating.”  Open access to patients is no longer the future, it is happening now. EHR systems need to balance the requirement for access with the equally important need for security. An approach focused on layered access to information, using a risk based authentication modality that answers three simple questions – are you who you say you are, where will I allow you to go, and what will I allow you to do - is the best means of achieving this goal.    



  1. ONC Privacy and Security Tiger Team

  2. Summary: HIPAA Security Rule

FFIEC Mandates - Are You Prepared For The Coming Changes?

The FFIEC was expected to provide an update to the 2005 Guidance on Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment in early 2011. Yet here it is almost May and nothing has been forthcoming. Bank Information Security recently reported the release is close, but would not speculate on when it would actually occur, as one FFIEC agency is rumored to be holding up the process.

It would be a dramatic understatement for the FFIEC to simply “reiterate and reinforce” given the dramatic change in online banking risks today as compared to 2005. In the 5 years since the FFIEC last released its guidelines on risk strategies and authentication technologies, a query of the Privacy Data Clearinghouse database shows that 2135 publicly reported data breach incidents have occurred. These breaches compromised 459,217,337 sensitive records (bank account information, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers). The ready availability of more advanced technology that allows those with little or no programming knowledge to launch sophisticated attacks, combined with the recognition that a more aggressive criminal element exists today, would certainly require much more than a reaffirmation.

Banking institutions and industry associations demonstrated their concern about the pending guidelines by scrambling to provide feedback following the public availability of an initial draft, "Interagency Supplement to Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment”, mistakenly posted on the National Credit Union Administration website in December 2010. This has led security analysts to speculate on the possibility that important changes are ahead.
Currently, the leaked draft remains the only available indicator of what to expect. The draft contained the following recommendations:
  • More frequent risk assessments focusing on authentication and related controls at least every 12 months and prior to implementing new electronic financial services
  • More robust controls as the risk level of transactions increases.
  • Layered Security to detect and effectively respond to suspicious or anomalous activity both at initial login access and at initiation of online transaction
  • Multi Factor Authentication, well beyond simple device identification and easily answered challenge questions
  • Increased Customer Education and Awareness.
Here is the question: Are you prepared?  Many vendors are currently scrambling to re-position their products as multi factor, or attempting to adapt single dimension offerings to address the emphasis on layered security. In a complex and confusing market, careful research will be essential to identifying an authentication solution that will increase identity assurance without adding additional burden to users; while also providing a flexible platform that can adapt and extend to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
  1. Symantec Report on Attack Kits and Malicious Websites : Executive Summary
  2. Verizon 2011 Data Breach Report
  3. Privacy Rights List of Data Breaches 2005 to Present
  4. Top Nine Security Threats of 2011
  5. 2010 "Interagency Supplement to Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment" (summary here and here )
  6. 2005 Guidance on Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment

New OddJob Trojan Threatens Financial Institutions

Security firm Trusteer has identified a new trojan they have named OddJob which keeps banking sessions open after banking customers believe they have logged off. From Trusteer:

We have found a new type of financial malware with the ability to hijack customers’ online banking sessions in real time using their session ID tokens. OddJob, which is the name we have given this Trojan, keeps sessions open after customers think they have “logged off”’, enabling criminals to extract money and commit fraud unnoticed. This is a completely new piece of malware that pushes the hacking envelope through the evolution of existing attack methodologies. It shows how hacker ingenuity can side-step many commercial IT security applications traditionally used to defend users' digital - and online monetary - assets.  We have been monitoring OddJob for a few months, but have not been able to report on its activities until now due to ongoing investigations by law enforcement agencies. These have just been completed. 

Information Week also reports the security firm F-Secure has found that a variant of the financial malware Zeus Mitmo is again active, this time targeting mobile phone customers of ING Bank in Poland. 

"Computers infected with a ZeuS Mitmo Trojan will inject a 'security notification' into the Web banking process, attempting to lure the user into providing their phone number," said Sean Sulllivan [of S-Secure]. "If a phone number is provided, the user will receive an SMS link pointing to the mobile component, ZeusMitmo.A." Clicking on the link then presents Symbian and BlackBerry users with Zeus Mitmo malware tailored to their smartphone.

The goal of Zeus Mitmo is to create fraudulent transactions using the mobile device, while subverting the bank's security procedures. In particular, the malware's mobile component creates a man-in-the-middle attack that steals the one-time password that some banks send via SMS to authorize a financial transaction, which are also known as mobile transaction authentication numbers (mTANs). By hijacking this security verification process, Zeus Mitmo disguises its fraudulent activities from users.


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