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Advertisement feature: Tackling the identity crisis

Secure user authentication promises greater protection and productivity.

Advertisement feature: Tackling the identity crisis

Date - 20th June 2013
By - Gemalto

The financial challenge facing police authorities in the UK is all too apparent. Soon after coming to power, the coalition government announced plans to cut central grants to the police by 20% over the four years to 2015. And with the task of reducing the national deficit proving harder than anticipated, it is quite possible that even deeper cuts lie ahead. In terms of ‘boots on the ground’, this equates to at least 15,000 fewer officers, and a total reduction in headcount of over 32,000. Furthermore, financial retrenchment is going hand in hand with demands to maintain or even enhance frontline policing. To try and square this particular circle, police authorities are pursuing a number of strategies. One option is to make more effective use of mobile computing. However, whilst there are undoubtedly opportunities to cut costs and boost productivity this way, concerns over the potential vulnerability of IT networks must also be taken into account.

Of course, the trend towards mobile technology predates the age of austerity. Police vehicles have increasingly resembled remote offices on wheels in recent years and a report by the UK National Audit Office in 2012 noted that trials of mobile technology showed a positive impact on the speed and efficiency with which routine administrative tasks were completed. With the right tools at their fingertips, officers are able to spend more time within the communities they serve.

But such efficiency gains cannot be made at the expense of protecting the sensitive data which officers handle on a daily basis. Reports of advanced cyber threats, including hacking, spyware, ID theft and viruses are increasingly commonplace, and police forces are clearly high profile targets for malicious attacks. In terms of addressing these risks, robust user authentication is one of the cornerstones of an effective security infrastructure. Currently, the most common technique is the classic username and ‘memorable’ password combination. Unfortunately, numerous security breaches have demonstrated the inherent weaknesses of this approach. This is certainly recognized in the US, where plans are now in place to ensure that access to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), the national database which contains information such as fingerprints and criminal records, must only be via a secure user authentication method.

In practice, secure user authentication means moving beyond traditional username/password techniques. And whilst the methodologies may vary, the basic principle is straightforward. Secure user authentication for log-in requires at least two form factors. For example: something the user knows (such as a name and password) plus something the user has. This might be a smartcard that holds a securely encrypted ID, or a ‘token’ that can generate a single-use password or PIN that is entered into a computer or device during log-in.

For police forces struggling with unprecedented budget reductions, the good news is that the enhanced security delivered by strong user authentication can also reduce overheads and improve productivity. The reason for this lies in the plethora of different credentials currently carried by both officers and administrative staff. Studies suggest that the typical officer has up to five, including not just the obvious warrant card, but also those used for physical access to buildings, rooms and lockers, and logical access to computers and networks. However, by making use of a secure user authentication solution such as Gemalto’s Protiva Defender Suite, it is possible to combine multiple access functions on a single credential such as a smartcard, cutting costs and increasing the speed with which officers can complete everyday tasks. Furthermore, because it is designed specifically for military and emergency service applications, Protiva Defender Suite utilizes the high level encryption and security technology necessary to resist sophisticated cyber-attacks.

In common with many other frontline public services, the police are wrestling with the challenge of making fewer resources go further than ever. Modern IT is one of the most valuable tools at the disposal of those charged with rising to the challenge. And although the issue of streamlining and strengthening user authentication is clearly part of a much bigger picture, it is at least one area in which there is demonstrable evidence of the ability to squeeze improved performance from a shrinking budget.

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Gemalto, a world leader in digital security, help organizations protect and manage their logical, physical, and cloud-based data assets. Our Protiva strong multi-factor authentication solutions provide the highest level of protection.

Gemalto develops secure embedded software and secure products which we design and personalize. Our platforms and services manage these products, the confidential data they contain and the trusted end-user services made possible.

Our innovations enable our clients to offer trusted and convenient digital services to billions of individuals. Gemalto thrives with the growing number of people using its solutions to interact with the digital and wireless world.

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