My Blog

The Use and Abuse of Multi-Factor Authentication in Consumer Facing Systems

A Primer

Authentication is the process of proving to a computer (or other system) that you are who you claim to be. There are several methods of doing this, of which the most common is a password.

The Factors [Reference 1.1.]

A password is in fact just one method of authenticating yourself. There are several methods available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. These can be combined into a single login process in order to increase security. The commonly accepted factors are:


The Internet Was Designed To Survive a Nuclear Strike

With so much business being conducted over the internet a significant outage could cause issues. For example supermarkets rely on timely and frequent deliveries, if their in store systems are unable to tell their distribution systems what stock they need shelves would rapidly empty. This is why it is wise to keep in mind how reliable the internet is and whether sufficient backup procedures are in place.


The General Public

Working with the general public can be a real eye opener, you see whilst most people are retentively smart it appears that everyone looses the ability to think once they become a customer. Just the other week (thanks to two blind customers) I was able to notice that guide dogs manage to queue better than humans. Then there's the ones whose response to being told to leave is to say "Fuck Off", apparently that's going to make us staff change our minds.

Anyway enjoy these true stories from other people: