What Is Identity Authentication vs. Verification?
Authentication vs. verification: they sound similar, but they’re two distinct and equally essential components of the online security process. User identity verification confirms that new customers are who they say they are, while authentication checks whether the legitimate account holder is accessing a customer account. While these two procedures are essential parts of customer identity checking procedures, they have some key differences. They involve different user data, they are performed at varying times during the customer lifecycle, and they take different amounts of time. But they also share some important similarities. Both procedures are critical for fraud protection, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance. Both can be combined with biometric technology for enhanced effectiveness.
Here we’ll highlight the key distinctions between identification authentication vs. verification in a cybersecurity context. First, we’ll look at what these terms mean separately to better understand the difference between identification verification and authentication. We’ll delve into how these procedures differ in user data, frequency, and duration. Then we’ll consider why these procedures are so necessary for security. Finally, we’ll look at how biometric technology can increase the effectiveness of both identity verification and authentication to provide better security for both your customers and your company.
Digital Identity: the Foundation of Identity Verification and Authentication
The practice of identity verification is rooted in digital identity, so it will help to start by looking at just what digital identity means. Digital identity consists of the unique identifying characteristics which make one digital customer account distinct from another. It can apply to customer accounts for individuals, businesses, and other entities such as nonprofits and government agencies. Here we will focus on B2C and B2B applications, but the same principles generally apply.
When individuals claim a digital identity, they are claiming to be associated with unique identifiers, such as a name, address, date of birth, and Social Security Number (SSN). For companies, digital identity is associated with identifiers such as corporate name and address, date of incorporation, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Identity theft occurs when an illegitimate user claims an individual or company’s identifying information for illegal purposes such as fraud or theft. This creates the need for identity verification and authentication cybersecurity procedures.
The difference between identification and identity verification is simply the distinction between the identity being claimed by a new customer and the process of confirming that the customer is who they claim to be. For example, when a B2C customer applies for an online bank loan and claims to be a particular person residing at a specific address and using a given email or phone number, a vital security question is whether the email being provided belongs to that individual or whether it is being used by someone else to make a fraudulent loan application.
One way to confirm this is by requiring a loan applicant to provide identification numbers and documents such as an SSN or a driver’s license or recent paycheck stubs, or bank statements. A check then can be run to determine whether the identifying documents are valid and are associated with the individual’s correct name, address, and other identifying information. A similar procedure can be used for B2B customers by requiring documentation such as EINs, bank statements, or tax records. Checking the validity of such documentation allows businesses to verify identity and confirm that new customers are who they claim to be.
Identity authentication in information security, on the other hand, refers to the process of confirming that someone accessing your customer’s account online is the customer. For example, when someone logs into a customer’s account, it is possible that a cyber thief has stolen the legitimate account holder’s username and password. Identity authentication in cybersecurity is a procedure used to reduce this type of risk by taking steps to confirm that the legitimate account holder is accessing your customer’s account.
Traditionally, this has been done using knowledge-based authentication (KBA). For example, someone trying to access an account may be asked to answer a question about their mother’s maiden name, what school they attended, their favorite book, or other information known to the individual. Unfortunately, KBA authentication checks can be bypassed by stealing a person’s authenticating information through manual or electronic means. For example, an identity thief could look up the name of a person’s mother and find out their maiden name to forge their KBA credentials.
To overcome the weaknesses of KBA, one method security experts have developed to strengthen authentication is biometrics. Biometric identity authentication uses unique traits which are more difficult for illegitimate users to duplicate, such as fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, or voice recognition. While not immune to vulnerabilities, these biometric ID authentication methods can be significantly more secure than KBA checks. Biometrics similarly can serve to strengthen identity verification procedures.
Key Differences Between Identity Verification and Authentication
The definitions above help highlight the relationship between identity authentication vs. verification and their differences. Some of the key differences include the type of user data involved, the frequency of the procedures, and their respective durations.
A fundamental difference between identity verification and authentication is that they use different user data to perform their functions. Identity verification involves validating a user’s official ID documents and matching them to other information confirming their identity, such as facial recognition data to compare ID photos with the individual’s photo. Authentication compares real-time data about a user’s live identity to identifying information already on file. For example, an email message may be sent to the customer’s email, which is on file, to confirm that they did log into their account, or a selfie might be requested for biometric authentication.
Identity verification and authentication vary in how often they are done. Verification is only done once at the beginning of the customer lifecycle, usually during onboarding. Authentication happens each time a service is accessed to ensure that the legitimate account holder is trying to gain access.
A third key difference between identity verification and authentication is the amount of time they take. Identity verification can be time-consuming and require a lengthy approval process. Since it is done only once, this does not inconvenience the customer significantly. However, authentication must be done every time the customer accesses their account, so it’s usually done as quickly as possible to avoid annoying customers. A key to providing frictionless customer experiences without sacrificing security is using automation to shorten the amount of time required for authentication.
Why Are Identity Verification and Authentication Important?
Identity verification and authentication are essential for several reasons:
- These procedures protect your customers from cybersecurity threats, such as identity theft and fraud.
- They keep your company from being defrauded and potentially liable for customer losses.
- They build customer trust that you’re taking steps to safeguard their data.
- Finally, identification verification and authentication help your company comply with federal anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations.
These factors make identity verification and authentication a critical part of running an online business.
Advantages of Biometric Verification and Biometric Authentication
Biometrics represents the latest advance in identity verification and authentication technology. Biometric methods of identity checking include fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, and voice recognition. These identification methods were once done manually, but today’s artificial intelligence technology enables them to be deployed digitally.
An advantage of this approach is that biometric identifiers are more challenging to impersonate than other types of authenticating data. For example, to spoof someone’s fingerprint, you would need physical access to their hand or something they had touched or a digital copy of their fingerprint. While this is not impossible, it requires significantly more resources than stealing a password, reducing identity theft risk. The same applies to authentication methods based on other biometric factors such as facial recognition and voice recognition.
Deploy Authentication and Verification Technology to Keep Your Company Safe
Identity verification confirms that new customers are who they say they are, while authentication checks whether legitimate users access your customers’ accounts. Verification relies on identification documents, only needs to be done once, and can take time, while authentication checks real-time identity indicators. It needs to be done each time a user accesses their account and should be done quickly to minimize inconvenience. Both procedures are vital for solid security, and both can be enhanced by deploying biometrics technology.
Incode Omni incorporates biometrics into a simple, secure, fast AI-based platform to automatically verify and authenticate user identity, providing a smooth customer experience that increases conversion rates while reducing fraud and maintaining strict privacy controls. Contact us to request a demo and see how Incode Omni can keep your company and your customers secure through easy, efficient identity verification and authentication.